Letter: Pay Attention to LBUSD’s Proposed Facilities Master Plan

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How would you spend $150 million? One option would be the school district’s facilities master plan included in Thursday’s school board study session. District parents received a text invitation to the school board study session last Friday to hear the proposal. Why not the whole community? After all, public schools are exempt from the Design Review Board. 

Elements at the elementary and middle schools include new turf fields, tech labs, outdoor science gardens and second-floor classrooms. Great use of funds that directly benefit the students and continues to bring our elementary and middle schools forward in education. Construction is contained within the campus, with only construction traffic impacting the neighborhoods.

The concern involves the high school and district offices with an estimated rough cost of $90 million based on renderings, so I would expect it to be higher. High school elements include a turf baseball field, an upgraded A/V system, and modernizing 7,500 square feet of classrooms, all direct student benefits. 

It also includes relocating a new two-story district office complete with underground parking at Short St. and Park, impacting neighborhood light and air, creating added traffic issues to an already congested, narrow street and intersection while appearing out of scale with the neighborhood. What is wrong with upgrading current offices? They have served us well, and enrollment is declining. 

The balance seems better suited as a community recreation development project as it includes a two-story parking structure with top-floor lighted tennis courts in the current district office location, not currently in the view corridor or in the night sky. Are any buildings to be demolished historic? Lastly, an aquatic center over the current tennis courts with a 50-meter AND a 25-yard pool. Certainly needed and long overdue. What other options could be considered? St. Catherine’s for a whole recreation center? Could that be a high school “home pool option?” What’s the traffic impact? It’s a main artery of traffic, evacuation routes, school traffic and summers. Why did district leadership fly this project so low under the community’s radar? Community members need to pay attention because of the design review board exemption. There is nothing that would protect the views, the night sky, or the surrounding neighborhoods’ light and air. This community must demand that a project such as this must have a more extensive, more public input process, like city projects, transparent and inclusive of all. The project needs a public town hall, perhaps with a special election, to approve the plan. It’s time to pay attention so this project doesn’t slip through. Past boards have given this administration leadership carte blanche for too long. It’s time to put on the brakes. 

Sheri Morgan, Laguna Beach

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