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News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current


Bond for an icon: District aims for balance

For the first time in more than 40 years, the San Dieguito Union High School District has placed a bond measure on the ballot for upgrades and construction at its campuses, including the 75-year-old San Dieguito Academy.

The district Board of Trustees voted 4-1 on July 26 to place the general obligation bond measure on the November ballot. Trustee John Salazar cast the dissenting vote.

If approved by voters, The Neighborhood School Classroom Repair and Education Improvement Measure would raise approximately $448 million, of which $76 million would be spent on improvements at San Dieguito Academy. The increase in property tax per district homeowner would be $25 per $100,000 assessed valuation, according to the district.

The SDA Master Plan calls for construction to occur from May 2014 into 2018. Eric Dill, district assistant superintendent, said the renovations will bring SDA on par with the two largest high schools in the area. Renovations would include the construction of two, two-story facilities for math/science and arts/English/social science; new athletic facilities; and an upgrade of campus information technology and infrastructure.

According to SDA Principal Tim Hornig, disruption to the students’ learning environment will be slim to none. Modular classrooms will be used for those students displaced from their usual classroom, and no classes are expected to be doubled up, nor are students to be moved off campus.

A crown jewel of the plan is the new gymnasium, which Hornig said will be “amazing.”

“Equity is going to be a big key,” Hornig said. “It will have … team rooms and weight rooms and ample room for the kids to use the facilities. All of the (boys and girls teams) will have their own spots to call their own as they build their programs.”

The measure must be approved by 55 percent of those who vote. All registered voters within district boundaries are eligible to vote.

Building support

Early polling indicates a November victory.

According to a telephone poll conducted in April by True North Research Inc., an Encinitas-based survey research firm, more than 64 percent of likely voters contacted said they would vote yes; 27 percent said no, with 8 percent undecided. Five hundred likely voters were contacted and the poll’s margin of error was 4.4 percent.

Dill said the support is the result of involving the community as partners from the beginning of the process in 2008. Dill said he is confident the support will continue into November, despite the potential appearance of competing state and local tax measures.

“The community’s highest priority was education,” Dill said, referring to the April poll. “So we think the community will look at this and realize this is an investment in education. These are dollars that are generated locally and will stay locally. We think the voters will continue to support it.”

When reached by telephone, Encinitas resident Jim Mastrogany voiced his support for the measure.

Mastrogany, an original member of the planning site committee, said he became involved because he realized SDA needed major infrastructure upgrades, something that the students would benefit from. At the same time, he wanted the character protected. He sees this plan as accomplishing both.

Those who were on the campus on a sun-drenched weekend in July echoed the polling numbers. At the SDA baseball diamond, Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident Jim Glass took a break from his volunteer duties in the snack shack to say he supports the bond measure.

Glass said he believes it will be “a great thing for the Academy and students,” with the historical architecture being preserved.

“From what I understand,” Glass said as the crack of the bat and one-sided cheers resonated in the background, “they will maintain the history of the architecture … and basically get rid of all these temporary structures they built around it.”

Craig Lawrence, 17, of Carlsbad, is an incoming senior who will enter the Marine Corps after graduation next year. Lawrence said he supports the renovation “because it gives the incoming freshmen and sophomores something to look forward to.” He said he looks forward to returning in several years and seeing a new and improved SDA.

Concerns about preservation

While there appears to be widespread support for the bond measure, there is concern among some about preserving the school’s historic character, as well as the vision of its architect, Lilian J. Rice.

As a student at UC Berkeley’s School of Architecture (and one of its first two female graduates), Rice was greatly influenced by a Bay Area club called the Berkeley Hillside Club. The Hillside Club’s philosophy of nature-inspired craftsmanship was incorporated by Rice into her own design ideology: simplicity of design, following the lay of the land and maintaining the natural features of the terrain.

Already experienced as the resident supervisory architect for the Rancho Santa Fe community in 1922, Rice was chosen by the newly formed San Dieguito Union High School District board to design the district’s first high school in 1936 – then named San Dieguito Union High School.

While Diane Welch, Solana Beach resident and author of “Lilian J. Rice: Architect of Rancho Santa Fe, California,” appreciates the enhanced learning environment in which the renovated SDA would bring to the student body, she said she hopes that Rice’s contributions to education, and her architectural legacy, will not soon be forgotten.

Walking through the shaded walkways around grassy quadrangles, representative of a Rice architectural design, Welch spoke reverently of the pioneer architect whose signature style remains in many buildings in and around Rancho Santa Fe. According to the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society, 11 buildings designed by Rice are on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I hope that Ms. Rice will be recognized and remembered for her hand in the original structure and that the final design will pay homage to her simplicity in line and form and color,” Welch said. “This may best be achieved by retaining some of the original structures or by designing new structures that reflect this simple ideology.”

Friends and 2006 alumni Tom Frank, 24, and Nicholas Miller, 23, remarked about the campus’s familiarity being a welcoming feature. With his friend nodding in agreement, Frank inferred Rice’s legacy without mentioning her by name.

“The identity of the school itself is very important to a lot of kids,” Frank said. “As long as the identity doesn’t change, if they try to protect that a little bit, then giving an update to the buildings to make them safer … or updating all the Internet and stuff like that, which is important, then those are all good things.”

Miller said the senior tiles, located at the school’s entrance, would be likewise important to more recent graduating classes.

“Certainly, if they ever take down a mural or tile that we had … we’d generally be a little disappointed,” he said. “There used to be a lighthouse type thing down by the palm trees in front that we used to call the Bomb Shelter. … Some of those things, definitely when they change … is disappointing.”

Hornig said the senior artwork will be considered when deciding what can be “saved, moved, or in effect recreate,” but could not give a definitive answer this early in the process.

Core to be preserved

Dill said the historical identity of the campus is in safe hands. The only buildings scheduled to be demolished or completely renovated are the buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s, “not the original, historic core of that campus.”

“The original buildings in the core campus, we will preserve because that really gives (San Dieguito Academy) its character,” Dill said. “What we’re going to do with those general purpose classrooms is take those walls down to the framing, so we can do the infrastructure upgrades …and put the walls back up, so the character of the campus will be preserved.”

The high school district reiterated that position in a post on its Facebook page on July 30: “The historic core of the San Dieguito Academy campus designed by Lilian Rice will be preserved. Our plans for those classic buildings include mostly infrastructure upgrades to power, bandwidth and plumbing to modernize those 75-year-old classrooms while maintaining the classic design. We recognize that SDA is an architectural gem with a great deal of sentiment in the community.”

For more information about the bond measure or the SDA renovation, visit, call (760) 943-3510 or email

Mike Lewis is a San Diego freelance writer


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Bond for an icon: District aims for balance