Oxnard District OKs Plans for New High School but Still Seeks a Site

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The board of the Oxnard Union High School District voted unanimously Wednesday to approve architectural plans for a new Oxnard High School although the district has no land on which to build it.

The district needs to move the existing Oxnard High School because it is in the flight path of Oxnard Airport and presents a possible safety hazard to students, according to a report by the state Department of Transportation.

Because of concerns about school safety, the State Allocation Board last spring placed Oxnard High School first on an emergency funding list for school construction money from an $800-million bond measure passed in June.

The money would cover construction of the building but would not pay for land, said Robert Brown, district business manager.

The district hopes to build the school on an 80-acre parcel at Patterson and Gonzales roads in an unincorporated area of the county, Brown said. Ag Land Services, a farming company, has offered to donate the land on the condition that it be allowed to build up to 1,000 residences and a shopping center near the site.

"The only way we can acquire a site is by donation" of the land, Brown said. "We have no other means to finance acquisition."

But the City Council voted two weeks ago not to allow the development and designated another site near Patterson Road--not owned by Ag Land Services--for the school. City officials said the alternate site was selected because it is within city boundaries.

The proposed Ag Land development, which would include a public park, was turned down because it would encroach on greenbelt land, which is set aside for agricultural use; might encourage further development of surrounding land, and would generate a need for new elementary and junior high schools, City Planner Matthew Winegar said.

"What it means is the high school district would have to acquire the property through some other means," Winegar said.

School officials said that no other land has been offered to the district and that it has no money to purchase property.

"We're moving along on the development of it," Brown said of the board's approval of the architectural plans. "But some place along the way we have to stop if we don't have a site."

The old site, on 5th and K streets, will be turned over to the state and may be put up for sale or lease to offset the cost of the new $25-million facility, officials said.

Original plans called for the new school to open in the fall of 1993. The architectural plans approved Wednesday could be used at either the Ag Land site or the site designated in the city plan, Brown said.

Larry White, Ag Land Services vice president, said the company has presented a modified development proposal to the city that calls for reducing the number of housing units to 850 and, rather than donating the land to the district, giving the district the money to buy a site.

White said he hopes that the proposal will be considered when the City Council resumes meetings Friday on the general plan.

Mayor Nao Takasugi said that the proposal is not on the agenda for the next general plan meeting, and that it is up to the council to decide whether to reconsider the development.

In an open letter addressed to Takasugi and the council Wednesday, business owners who are members of the district's nonprofit Education Partnership Program urged support for the Ag Land proposal.

"Failure to have support for the donation of a site could possibly result in the loss of state funding for the construction of the relocated high school," the letter said. Then the cost of the project may "fall on Oxnard area taxpayers if a local bond election were necessary."

A district report says new schools are needed because the population is projected to double over the next 15 years.

In addition to a new Oxnard High School in the 11,200-student, six-school district, officials are seeking to build a seventh high school south of Gonzales Road near Rose Avenue.

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