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Ventura District Committed to Building New School

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Architects are drafting plans for an airy Mediterranean-style elementary school, the first campus built in the Ventura Unified School District in nearly three decades.

Regardless of whether an $81-million school bond passes Tuesday, school officials say they are committed to proceeding with the $7.5-million campus, designed to ease overcrowding in east Ventura.

The school, designed by the PSWC Group in Agoura Hills, should look far different from traditional schoolhouses.

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The campus would have a central office with six buildings fanning out behind it--one for each grade level. Each wing would feature a skylight and a steel roof.

The school would also have a media center, which includes movable book shelves and computers that could be accessed from other parts of the campus. Other features include a common work area for each wing and a central courtyard.

The school’s baseball field would be open to the community.

“We’re really pleased with the way it came out,” said Mound School kindergarten teacher Linda Tracy, a member of the school district’s design committee. “It looks like what we wanted.”

The campus, planned for Darling Road just south of California 126, could open as soon as February 1999 for as many as 650 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. The surge in housing developments in east Ventura during the last few decades has left the east end elementary schools straining to accommodate the increased student population.

According to a report released in January, Juanamaria School is close to enrollment capacity at 93%, Junipero Serra is over capacity at 113%, as is Saticoy School at 105%

“We are moving forward with this school,” said Joseph Richards, district assistant superintendent. “We definitely need it if we want to meet the housing demands on the east end schools.”

The new elementary school would be the first built since Portola elementary in 1978. Aside from the administration building and cafeteria, the campus at 1350 Partridge St. was formed entirely of portable classrooms. The last campus built before Portola was Junipero Serra in 1966.

The new school would be built on 10.8 acres of a 20-acre lemon orchard that the district owns on Darling Road near Petit Avenue. In the past, district officials have said they may consider selling the remaining 9.2 acres to housing developers.

So far, the district has accumulated $5 million in developers’ fees and hopes to receive the remaining $2.5 million from the passage of the $81-million Measure M school bond initiative in Tuesday’s election.

If the bond does not pass, the district may have to draw money from other areas of its budget, Richards said.


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