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Schools Seek Land at Marine Station

The Tustin Unified School District is seeking more than 100 acres of land at the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station on which to build two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.

School district trustees decided Monday to make the request to the U.S. Department of Education, which will recommend potential educational uses for the base, which is scheduled to close in 1997.

It would take at least another three years before land at the 1,620-acre base is available for redevelopment, but school district officials said the request was needed for “planning purposes.”

“There are still so many unanswered questions,” said district Supt. David L. Andrews. “But we have the responsibility to plan ahead.”

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The 103 acres requested by the district would come from the 200 to 300 acres expected to be available for public use.

“It’s a big chunk,” said Trustee Todd Ferguson, who is also a member of a Tustin panel that is drafting a redevelopment plan for the base. “We have to justify every acre.”

Under federal law, portions of the base must be given or sold at discounted prices to public agencies, tribal organizations and nonprofit groups providing services to the homeless.

Advocates for the homeless are interested in some of the base’s 1,500 housing units, while a coalition of school districts, colleges and universities is proposing to convert certain parts of the base to a business and job-training center.

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Tustin Unified was invited to join the education coalition, but Donna Burt, the school district’s facilities administrator, said it was better that “we apply on our own.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Burt said. “We’re just protecting our interest.”

Vivian Blevins, chancellor of Rancho Santiago Community College District, the coalition spokeswoman, said her group will submit its application to the U.S. Department of Education by the end of this week.

The Orange County Department of Education, a coalition member, will submit a separate application. Saddleback Community College District, another coalition member, will also submit its own application.

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