LBUSD Unveils Proposed Updates to School Facilities

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Tentative plans include shared-use Olympic-sized pool and parking structure at high school 

Laguna Beach High School

The Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) has rolled out its conceptual 10-year plan for upgrading multiple facilities at Laguna Beach High School, Thurston Middle School, and El Morro and Top of the World Elementary Schools. 

The estimated total construction costs for upgrades to the high school, which include a new aquatic center, parking and tennis facilities, are $88,299,000. The Thurston Middle School enhancements are estimated at $4,786,000, El Morro Elementary School at $19,840,000 and Top of the World Elementary School at $7,280,000.

“The plans are all conceptual, and they could change,” LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria said. “It’s a multi-year process. Once some of these plans, with the board’s direction, get solidified, we will start building out what it could potentially there’s a community feedback and engagement portion that comes into there, where you have more conversations when there’s actually something more less hypothetical and more real.”

On March 23, community engagement regarding the project entered its first phase with a LBUSD school board study session at Thurston library. For an hour, board members and school officials heard from parents and surrounding neighbors on topics relating to the plan, which includes the state-mandated expansion of the transitional kindergarten program, upgrades to outdated athletics facilities, the creation of outdoor learning environments and ways to support the increased demand for social-emotional support programs. 

The board is also exploring how to expand recreational and mixed-use facilities for the Laguna Beach community. The proposed projects include the possibility of an Olympic-sized pool (50 meters), a parking structure and a shared administrative building for district and high school staff that maximizes land use and creates mixed-use spaces for school business and student activities. 

District officials said the aquatic facility and parking structure would be open to the community, hopefully addressing citywide parking shortages and growing recreational opportunities in Laguna. 

“The idea of a new, Olympic-sized swimming pool in my beloved town of Laguna Beach is amazing. Better yet, the idea of providing the students of LBUSD with access to a 50-meter facility is game-changing,” Laguna Beach resident Janet Evans said during the study session. “With the tradition of excellence in aquatics here in Laguna Beach, continuing this legacy for future generations is imperative for our town. This is a great opportunity to nurture youth sports in our city.”

The proposed projects for the Laguna Beach High School administrative offices would integrate student social-emotional, college and career readiness services into one physical space to make them more easily accessible to students and their families, according to the district. 

“It is extremely rare that a community project checks so many boxes for so many groups. As I see it, the proposed aquatic, parking and tennis facilities projects benefit the city, our schools and neighbors,” said Laguna Beach resident Steve Samuelian. “Shared recreational facilities promote a culture of health and wellness, foster human development, and strengthen communities through shared experiences. These projects meet our current needs and are an important step toward long-term community development.”

But not everyone is as gung-ho about the district’s tentative plans. Some residents who lived close to the high school voiced their concerns about the proposal and asked the board for better transparency and consideration of how it would affect quality of life as LBUSD continues to move forward. 

Steve McIntosh, who has lived across from the high school on Short Street and Legion for more than 20 years, said this is the first time he’s seen the school district, which is exempt from taking its plans through the city’s design review board, take on a project this large in scope.

“When you talk about this project with the neighbors, they’re like, ‘you know what? That’s not right,'” McIntosh said. “We’re good neighbors here. We would always watch out for the school and the kids to keep them safe. It’s interesting how people rally around the school that live here. It’s sad. It is basically just a slap in our face. It’s like the district is saying, ‘by the way, we’re going to do this, we can do this, and you can’t stop us.'”

After listening to public input, the school board directed staff to conduct site-based and community engagement meetings to gather additional feedback and contact the city parking committee to determine city joint-use interest in proposed facilities, including the two school board members participating in the ad hoc facilities committee. They will also explore financing options and give background information to the board, reduce the square footage suggested for administrative offices, and explore opportunities for mixed-use shared spaces.

Staff will also continue to review all projects to fine-tune the school sites’ exact needs and adjust accordingly, as well as give more detailed information on how athletic facility lighting could affect the surrounding neighbors. 

“Tonight’s study session marks the first time that our board as a collective has had an opportunity to review and discuss the proposed updates to the master plan, and I want to reiterate that this is the beginning of a process that would be carried out over a number of years, with significant community input, should the board majority decide to explore any of the proposed projects further,” LBUSD Board of Education President Jan Vickers said. 

District officials will give updates at the next board meeting in May. Further details on the project can be found at bit.ly/LBUSDFacilitiesProposal.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Students before MONUMENT$

    1. $150 million dollars for site-improvements following the LBU$D loss of 500 students to their enrollment over the past 3 years.
    2. 10% decline in academic achievement (3-times greater than surrounding school districts).
    3. One of the last schools in California to re-open their schools for in-class learning even though larger school districts with much less resources were able to do so.
    4. Highest paid teachers with the highest per capita spending on students in the state.
    5. Over a million dollars in salaries and benefits for a $uperintendent with (3) Ass. $uperintendents for 4-small and shrinking schools with less than 2700 students.
    6. Tax payer funded legal expenditures that have spiraled out of control defending this $uperintendent and the LBU$D whom the Superior and Appellate Courts concluded “Abused their Discretion with NO Statutory Authority”.
    7. Issue exorbitant pay raise to an under-performing $uperintendent without prior review bypassing their own bylaws which “THE SCHOOL BOARD” had adopted only months earlier.

    I guess when there is NOTHING to highlight about student achievement or student optimism the LBU$D will choose to deflect attention away from their record of incompetence at their JOB: “EDUCATING OUR STUDENTS” by using LBU$D resources and time to build MONUMENTS to themselves with Laguna Beach tax dollars.

    $35 Million dollars towards a NEW District and Administration office. REALLY???

    Laguna Beach citizens please review what the LBU$D and $uperintendent deem a priority. What percent of this monies benefit the students?

    Our 4-small and shrinking schools are already the most beautiful in the State. Any future monies being spent should be directed at student curriculum, academics and college readiness; especially, given the decline of student test scores and emotional well-being under this $uperintendent and $school Board.

  2. Interesting that the school and district administrators are highly paid but the academic results are declining and the staffs are expecting more money. This is not how to run a school district. Staff performance and results are the reason for these educators to be employed. This situation needs to change.

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