ENCINITAS — On a Monday morning, the campus of Cardiff Elementary School is noisier than it usually would be on a summer day.
But the noise isn’t the cacophony of pupils at play, it’s the loud crunch of wood, fiberglass and other building materials being ripped from empty buildings.
The metal jaws of two large demolition machines plunge into empty classroom buildings, bringing down six or seven decades of history with each violent bite.
Piece by piece, Cardiff Elementary is coming down.
The demolition of almost all of the campus’ buildings is the first stage of a controversial, two-phase project to rebuild the school campus. The first phase, approved by the City Council in May, includes the grading and undergrounding of utilities and construction of new buildings.
New construction will begin in Fall 2019 and is expected to be completed in spring 2021.
“It has been a long road to get here, but we’re finally ready to begin delivering on what we promised Cardiff voters when they passed Measure GG,” Cardiff School District Board President Siena Randall said. “By spring of 2021, Cardiff School students will have a fresh new campus built to the highest safety standards and designed to maximize their learning environment.”
Beginning next fall, the second- and third-grade students at the K-3 campus will attend school at the district’s upper school, Ada Harris, which currently serves grades four to six.
Kindergarten and first-grade classes will continue in portable classes on the campus while construction is underway.
The construction has been met with some criticism, as neighbors have lamented the cutting down of mature trees that the district planned as part of the project.
Brett Farrow, a local architect and planning commissioner who lives on Mozart Avenue across the street from school, sent an email with pictures of his favorite tree being cut down.
“My favorite tree which ‘blocked’ my ocean view was cut down,” Farrow wrote to a group of neighbors, including a prominent member of the group opposed to the project. “Beautiful wind sculpted tree. My kids liked climbing it. Huge loss. I urge others to document the other removals.”
But much of the controversy involving the school reconstruction is in the project’s second phase, the proposed relocation of the school’s multi-purpose room on a section of the district-owned George Berkich Park.
The district needs the approval of both the state and National Park Service for the project’s second phase because of a 1993 federal grant agreement that requires the park remain in perpetuity unless the agencies endorse a boundary change. That agreement requires the district to replace the lost park land with a corresponding amount of land.
School district officials have proposed redrawing the boundary to include the school’s parking lot, which would double in size in the new plan, as well as opening the school’s garden for community use.
Opponents have fiercely contested the district’s plans to build on any portion of the park land, which they said should remain parkland in perpetuity.
District officials have expressed confidence they will receive approval.
“We look forward to resolving the grant issue and delivering these final two components,” Randall said.
Photo Caption: Demolition of almost all of the Cardiff School buildings, which began Monday, is the first stage of a two-phase project. Controversially, the second phase involves relocating a school facility onto adjacent George Berkich Park. Photo by Aaron Burgin