ENCINITAS— Passions flared last week inside the library at Cardiff Elementary School, as a number of residents urged the Cardiff School District board of trustees to reconsider a proposed redesign of the school’s campus.
But the school district said they will proceed with the overhaul, prompting an outburst from one of the plan’s most staunch opponents.
The school board at its Oct. 12 meeting received a report about the proposed redesign, which has become controversial in recent weeks as a group has gathered petitions in opposition of the project.
The new campus redesign, which is part of the district’s recently passed Measure GG building campaign, calls for an open-air multipurpose room and kindergarten classrooms adjacent to the main entrance on land that is currently part of the district-owned George Berkich Park. The park’s baseball field would be eliminated under the proposal, and the district would join the two grass fields, currently separated by playground equipment, to create a longer, contiguous field that could be host to two simultaneous soccer matches.
Opponents have criticized the plan as too open and grandiose for a K-3 school and argue that it reduces the parkland and replaces the open view along Montgomery Avenue with large buildings.
For more than two hours, residents spoke to the school board voicing their opinions about the campus overhaul. Some speakers favored the proposal, echoing the district’s concerns about the safety of the current layout.
Rick Cassar, who said he believed opponents were using “deceptive tactics” in their campaign against the proposal, applauded the district for putting children’s safety as the top priority in the redesigned campus.
But the majority of speakers implored the school board to change course and consider a less drastic project.
One woman who filmed the proceedings reportedly for a documentary accused the district of elections fraud, which drew a heated rebuke from board President Mark Whitehouse.
Following public testimony, the school board members took turns thanking residents on both sides for their commentary, and said they would look at ways to improve the proposal. But Whitehouse said they wouldn’t stray from the proposed site plan.
“It’s a good plan, and I don’t think it is as drastic as some here feel it is,” said Whitehouse, who voiced the strongest support for the plan out of the five board members.
After the board members finished their comments, Whitehouse looked to each of the board members and asked if they were satisfied with the current configuration, to which his colleagues nodded, and Whitehouse moved to the next agenda item.
George Hejduk, who spoke earlier in the meeting in opposition to the project, shouted at Whitehouse, accusing him and the board of ignoring the residents.
“Weren’t you listening the last two hours?” Hejduk said. “What are you doing?”
Whitehouse recessed the meeting after Hejduk refused to leave.
We agree with Rod in Cardiff
The school board should spend money on programs for the students, not buildings.
The board should be asking for help and input from George Hejduk, and not disrespect long time residents who are trying to protect their neighborhood.
George Hejduk has helped Cardiff for a number of decades. His work and input over the years have been an important contribution, helping the Cardiff community in numerous ways.
Cardiff had a public vote to spend one and a half million dollars to build the Encinitas George Berkich Park.
The school board is making a grave mistake constructing unnescessary buildings for a diminishing student base.
Keep any new construction within the current footprint and I believe Cardiff residents would approve new school improvements and more student programs.
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