By Pablo Jaime Sainz
There’s something going on at the Sweetwater Union High School District.
Better said: There are lots of things going on at that district good, positive things, by the way.
And to let all the community know about some of the plans and realities taking place at Sweetwater, Dr. Ed Brand, the district’s superintendent, invited members of the media, including La Prensa San Diego, to an Editors and Reporters Roundtable on Wednesday, December 15.
This roundtable discussion is one of the first informal meetings that district’s representatives said want to make at least twice a year, in order to keep in touch with the greater community, especially ethnic populations that read newspapers such as La Prensa San Diego.
Brand said Sweetwater diverse student body reflects the reality of our county.
“We see our district as the future of San Diego in the following 10 to 15 years, in terms of diversity and mobility,” he said.
One of the most ambitious plans that the district has developed to meet the needs of the community it serves, is the Asset Utilization Project, which would bring the District Offices, Corporate Yard, and the Chula Vista Adult School campus, to a 23-acre parcel of industrial/mixed-used land at L Street and Industrial Blvd. in western Chula Vista.
“The Sweetwater Union High School District has a significant need to obtain an effective and adequately sized facility to house its administrative office and corporate yard operations,” reads the projects proposal. “Years ago, the District’s Fifth Avenue administrative office and corporate yard facility became inadequate to house the staff, equipment, buses and programs required by the District. Consequently, the District began expanding its administrative operations to other areas of the District, and to offices leased from the private sector. Over time, this situation has grown to the point where the District’s administrative and support operations are no longer economically and operationally effective as they could be when housed in proper facilities on one campus.”
But the challenge is this: The District will build these facilities without using resources dedicated for schools.
The Asset Utilization Project, which has an estimated cost of $122 million, will be made possible thanks to a set of relationships and agreements with public agencies, private non-profit and for profit-organizations, said Bruce Husson, Sweetwater Chief Operating Officer.
The project relies on the district declaring its properties for exchange in accordance with Education Code Section 17536, which authorizes school districts to dispose of property through exchange with private entities, he said.
According to Husson, some of the benefits the project will bring to the community are:
• New school capacity on the West side of Chula Vista without displacing current residents or businesses to acquire land;
• New housing in the community will contribute to the revitalization of the western Chula Vista area and removal of current blight;
• Relocating the District’s corporate yard, which houses food and transportation services, to an area zoned for industrial applications will improve the Fifth Avenue residential neighborhood with either new residential housing or an elementary school and park.
• The plan has the potential to generate more than $140 million of net property tax increment, through the Redevelopment Agency (RDA), for the community’s benefit.
Hasson said Sweetwater has already sent the proposal to the City of Chula Vista Council, and District’s representative is expecting to meet with the City Council in January.
But the Asset Utilization Project isn’t the only thing going on at Sweetwater.
Director of Grants Lillian Leopold gave an update on the projects being done with the $187 million funding from Prop. BB, which South Bay voters approved in 2000 to modernize Sweetwater schools.
She said the district is 11 years ahead of schedule because the Sweetwater has established eligibility for $138 million in state matching fund, giving the district a total of $325 million to meet modernization needs.
Superintendent Brand also announced the Alliance for Success, an agreement between Sweetwater and Alliant International University that guarantees admission to the university to Sweetwater graduates, beginning with the Class of 2004.
Another similar agreement has been reached with Point Loma Nazarene University, Brand said.
“You can be assured that if you attend anyone of our Sweetwater schools you will get quality instruction,” he said.