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The Brooks Street Swim Center reopened in early February after being closed for nearly a year for extensive renovations. Photo by Samantha Nelson
The Brooks Street Swim Center reopened in early February after being closed for nearly a year for extensive renovations. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Oceanside, school district deal aims to boost field, gym access

OCEANSIDE — After a few years of negotiations, Oceanside Unified and the city have agreed to a new, one-year joint-use agreement in an effort to boost field, gym and pool access for students, residents and private recreation groups. 

The agreement allows city and outside recreation groups to use the school district’s stadiums and gyms in exchange for the district using the city’s pools and event centers.

The city previously had a five-year joint-use agreement with the school district that expired in 2021. Since then, the city and the district have followed the expired agreement until a new one is negotiated.

The Oceanside City Council unanimously approved the new agreement on May 8. 

The most significant change from the previous agreement is that the district now allows third-party groups access to its gyms and stadiums through a permit from the city. 

“The (Parks and Recreation) Department will be able to issue permits at five district sites, and use of these fields will be based on the city’s fee schedule, making them more accessible to our local sports organizations,” said Parks and Recreation Director Manuel Gonzalez. 

Those sites include Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Lincoln middle schools, plus Surfside Academy (formerly Ditmar Elementary) and South Oceanside elementary schools for up to 485 hours during non-school hours, weekends and school holidays.

According to staff, this change will alleviate the city’s field and gym shortages in recent years.

Additionally, the Parks and Recreation Department would have approximately 850 hours for using fields at EI Camino High School and Oceanside High School and approximately 550 hours for using gyms at EI Camino High, Oceanside High, and MLK Jr. Middle School.

These sites would be available for staff-led and department-contracted programs, while third-party organizations would still have to rent these fields and gyms directly from the district.

In exchange, the district would have free access — waived rental fees and staff reimbursement costs — to up to 725 hours of pool time at the Brooks Street, Marshall Street and William A. Wagner aquatic centers and 145 hours of use at the Country Club Senior and EI Corazon Event centers. 

The district also agreed not to charge the city fees for using its sports facilities.

Previously, the city prioritized the district’s requests to use city facilities before considering requests from other organizations. The district paid the city for staffing charges but did not pay rental fees except for the Wagner Aquatic and El Corazon event centers.

The city had access to district fields after 6:30 p.m., but for city-run events only. 

Throughout the previous five-year agreement, the city never used district fields for city programs or events due to scheduling conflicts and inconsistent field conditions, according to staff.

“The primary benefit to the city was that the community could use district fields for passive park use after school hours if they were not being used for school functions,” the staff report states.

OUSD manages more than 115 acres of fields and open spaces, which helps the city meet its 5-acre parkland requirement per 1,000 residents.

Under the new agreement, the city will be able to charge third-party organizations for permits to use school district facilities to compensate for revenue lost from waiving the district’s staffing and rental fees.

Although the school district rents its facilities to third-party organizations, Gonzalez said their fees are unaffordable for many of them.

The city will pay the district $25,000 from its American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for materials to improve the district’s fields, including seed, soil and fertilizer.

The city expects $65,000 in permit revenue to offset the waived staffing charges and fees, so the city’s general fund will not be affected. Though the district no longer has to pay those fees, it could lose up to $488,000 in its own facility fees and staffing costs if the city uses its facilities at all available times.

The pilot agreement goes into effect on June 1 and expires on May 31, 2025.

Councilmember Eric Joyce recalled discussions about creating a new joint-use agreement between the school district and the city when he previously served as a school board trustee before his council election. 

“I think that this current MOU brought back to us is a really big deal for the organized sports teams of our city,” Joyce said, noting that both children and adults will benefit from increased access to gyms and stadiums.

Joyce said he would like staff to begin working on the next agreement before the new one expires, noting he would like more access to open spaces owned by the district for the public. 

“We should work closely with the district to see how we can get those open so people can come play for free,” he said. 

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