The Coast News Group
Stuart Mesa students and teachers during a frozen yogurt social on campus last year. Photo via Twitter/Stuart Mesa
Stuart Mesa students and teachers during a frozen yogurt social on campus last year. Photo via Twitter/Stuart Mesa

State recognizes Camp Pendleton schools with Purple Stars

CAMP PENDLETON — All three of Oceanside Unified School District’s military base schools have been recognized by the state with Purple Stars for their efforts to reduce the burden on military families and children.

North Terrace, Stuart Mesa and Santa Margarita have been named Purple Star Schools by the California Purple Start School Designation Program, which highlights the schools that are the most committed and best equipped to meet their students’ unique needs which include frequently moving and resettling throughout their primary school years.

Purple Star schools seek to reduce the burden on military families through providing critical  transition support.

“Our students move six to nine times between Kindergarten and the end of high school,” said Stuart Mesa Principal Rhonda Heffernan.

Though the schools are on Camp Pendleton’s base, are part of the Oceanside Unified School District. Fallbrook and Bonsall school districts also have schools on base as well.

Moving so frequently can be stressful for military families and their students on Camp Pendleton, especially when moving to a place without any family connections nearby.

“Many of those in base housing have no family close to them, and many only have one car,” Heffernan said.

Stuart Mesa, which serves a 100% population of military-affiliated students living in the Stuart Mesa military housing district on Camp Pendleton, was previously recognized as a Purple Star school during the first year of the program last year. Now this year all three base schools have received the award.

Heffernan said the school works on building its community and relationships with parents by inviting them to frequent events on campus.

“Stuart Mesa is a place where every one of our families feel they belong, like this is their school,” the principal said. “We want to honor what they’ve done for us.”

The United States military is one of the nation’s largest workforces with more than 2.6 million active-duty service members and individuals serving in the National Guard and Reserves. Last year, California had 278,397 of those members.

The district’s three military base schools are among 59 schools that were recognized as Purple Star schools for 2023. Several of those other schools are located in San Diego County, including in nearby Bonsall and Fallbrook.

“We are proud to receive this recognition and be a part of a network of schools dedicated to supporting military families,” stated Superintendent Julie Vitale in a news release. “We are committed to providing a welcoming and supportive environment for our military-connected students and their families, and this designation is a testament to our efforts.”