The sale of the historic Timber school (circa 1924) which houses Conejo Valley High School on Kelley Road has set off months of debate and controversy in our community over where our CVHS students’ will be relocated. Selling this property with no solid relocation plan was a disastrous board decision.
Not only was the property sold far below its value (sold for $8.9MM and a year later it is now back on the market by the new owners for $20MM), but the district has relocated maintenance and operations (M&O), which was also housed on the Kelley Road property, to a location that is too small and does not meet safety standards. The district has spent at least $11.4MM relocating M&O and is renting the school back from the buyer who took advantage of us for $25,000 per month (it was $50,000 per month before M&O was relocated). We have already spent over $600,000 renting the property back and have signed another year lease.
The financial side of this is devastating but what pains me even more is the way the students and staff of CVHS have been put in the middle of this controversy. These are some of our most vulnerable students. Their school never should have been sold out from under them.
Each time a location has been publicized as a possible option for housing CVHS, it has been met with strong resistance. I understand this. Proposing to place a high school in a facility that was originally designed as a neighborhood elementary school is not going to be an easy sell. No one wants their neighborhood school to be repurposed and completely changed. Unfortunately, this has put the students of CVHS in the very difficult position of not knowing where they will be located.
Many solutions have been offered up for where to move CVHS. There were a total of ten existing sites plus new construction options that were explored this summer by a CVUSD ad hoc committee. See link for reports: http://www.conejousd.org/TheConejoValleyLearningCenter(CVLC).aspx.
The committee was charged by the superintendent and the board with finding a solution that would house CVHS, Century Academy (online program) and a future Career Technical Education (CTE) program which would be the Conejo Valley Learning Center (CVLC).
If the mandate is removed that all three of these programs must be housed in the same facility, then many more location options open up for CVHS.
Because the option chosen by the committee (which was not unanimous) was to put the new CVLC at Waverly, I cannot support this option. This would displace and potentially damage too many successful programs that serve vulnerable populations. These possibly include the Adult ESL program and the United Cerebral Palsy program (which has been housed at Waverly for the past 27 years). No relocation plan that adequately addresses the concerns of moving these programs has been provided. Moving these programs will cause further disruption to other successful CVUSD programs.
Importantly, the Waverly neighborhood does not want the change of a new CVLC in their neighborhood and I understand and respect their wishes. I believe we need to look elsewhere.
I cannot wholeheartedly support the TOHS option either. I was given a tour of CVHS a few days ago. This was a tour from outside the gate and after hours. The superintendent does not allow school board challenger candidates, only incumbent candidates, to tour programs and speak to principals during school hours. After having the CVHS campus explained to me I know the TOHS option would not provide anything near what they have on Kelley Road. We owe it to the students of CVHS to find a solution that most closely matches what they have. Their current ideal location is about a 5-acre property and provides 17 rooms, a large soccer field, a woodshop, gardens, a weight room, an auditorium and more. I believe it was the right thing to thoroughly vet the TOHS option – especially because the community sees the huge cost difference between the Waverly and TOHS option. However, ultimately the students should not pay the price for poor board planning and decision-making regarding their school. They deserve a comparable replacement.
At the current board majority’s direction, the solutions the CVUSD ad hoc committee seriously considered this summer were only solutions for a complete Learning Center concept. In order to find the best solution, I believe we need to thoroughly consider options that do not keep CVHS, Century Academy and a new CTE program in the same location. The Learning Center concept might be a good idea but may not be feasible – especially because Ventura County just built us a brand-new CTE facility that apparently the current CVUSD board members do not want our students to use. For me the most important thing is ensuring we find a home for CVHS where they will be able to continue their program substantially as they have it now and no current successful programs that serve vulnerable populations are displaced and/or harmed.
This is a complex issue that will require much more planning and stakeholder input before final decisions should be made. The current board majority is rigid and unwilling to revisit decisions when legitimate and important concerns are brought to their attention. I believe we need fresh ideas and new people on the board who provide new directives and vision for finding the proper location for CVHS before we will come up with the best solution.
- Sandee Everett