OCEANSIDE — Once shovels hit the ground next spring, San Luis Rey Elementary will be officially renamed after a local, indigenous figure historically known for his academic work that told the story of his people.
In early June, the Oceanside Unified School District board of trustees unanimously approved renaming San Luis Rey Elementary’s campus after Pablo Tac, a Luiseño or Payómkawichum (People of the West) indigenous scholar born at Mission San Luis Rey in 1822.
Tac wrote a description of life as a Mission Indian while studying for the Catholic priesthood in Rome, created a dictionary of his people’s language and wrote about the lives of indigenous people in Southern California. He also studied Latin and was the first Luiseño to attend college.
When students at Garrison Elementary were moved to San Luis Rey during the 2019-2020 school year after sinkholes were found on Garrison’s campus, the school board decided the schools would remain together and be renamed to unite them as one.
San Luis Rey’s campus is also in need of major renovations. Built in 1962, the school has never been modernized until now.
The plan is to build a new administration building with a health office and conference room; a new stage with expanded entry and exit points and height; 14 new modular classrooms including space for TK (Transitional Kindergarten); several outdoor additions including a shaded eating area, gathering space and learning spaces; and new community access to school fields.
The school will also correct its traffic flow to allow for parents who have already picked up or dropped off their children to leave instead of staying stuck waiting in line.
Currently, staff is nearing the end of the project’s design stage and has started working on its construction documents. Though there still isn’t a set date for construction to begin, staff anticipates groundbreaking to happen sometime next spring.
Construction will then take between two to three years to complete.
The school board unanimously approved officially renaming the site on July 20 and will hold a groundbreaking ceremony next year.
One San Luis Rey fifth-grade teacher, Victoria Mariani, disagreed with the Board’s decision. She had urged the board both at the June meeting and the most recent meeting to wait to rename the school until the renovation is complete, as it would be difficult for the school’s community to accept a new identity under the same old, out-of-date conditions.
“Assuming the name and identity before work is finished is asking too much,” Mariani said.
But for trustees, waiting up to three years to rename the school would take too long.
“I really don’t want to lose the momentum we have around Pablo Tac,” said Board President Stacy Begin, noting that she wanted to honor the work of the committee who went through all the renaming applications and narrowed it down to three choices for the Board.
Trustee Mike Blessing said the renaming needed to happen sooner to honor the Board’s decision to unite the two schools.
Trustee Eleanor Evans encouraged the school’s faculty to read about Tac and his work to better understand what he went through.
“It’s extremely powerful,” she said.