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Castaic finally closing in on getting its own high school

November 19, 2009 |  3:34 pm

Plans to build a long-awaited high school in Castaic have moved one step closer to fruition, after a decision to conduct simultaneous environmental impact reports on two potential sites.

“This has been an emotional and political issue in our valley; more political than it should have been,” Dennis King, an outgoing board member for the William S. Hart Union High School District, told a standing-room-only audience Wednesday. “I think it’s time to start . . . moving forward on this.”

The decision to spend up to $250,000 and potentially 18 months on the two environmental impact reports breaks more than a decade of gridlock that has prevented residents of Castaic, a semirural canyon community on the far northwestern edge of Los Angeles County, from getting a high school to call its own.

“Moving forward on two choices for the school site is the best option we’ve seen in a while,” said John Kunak, a 22-year Castaic area and president of the Castaic Union School District board, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Past efforts to find a campus site were stymied by various roadblocks, including developer money problems, disagreements over designs, traffic and noise concerns, and fear of urban encroachment.

Some have blamed the delay on Hart School District, which is headquartered in nearby Santa Clarita and serves high school students from Castaic. Others have faulted Castaic residents themselves for opposing possible locations.

As the fight has dragged on, Castaic students have been alternately routed to one of two high schools outside the community.

The school sites selected for further study include one called Hasley/Sloan, which would allow for a 48-acre high school, costing about $17 million to develop, according to consultants. Flooding could present a problem at this site, and a bridge would need to be constructed to the school, the specialists said.

The other property, called Romero Canyon, has 53 acres that could be developed for the new school at a cost of around $28 million, according to the consultants. The location, characterized by steep ridges and deep canyons, would require extensive grading and drainage; and there is a potential for landslides, as outlined in the consultants’ report.

Steve Teeman, president of the Castaic Area Town Council, an advisory board that represents the unincorporated town before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, praised the initiative to finally get the school project off the ground but said he was “disappointed that other viable sites were excluded from the process.”

“This is something we’ll have to live with for the remainder of our lives,” Teeman said.

-- Ann M. Simmons from Santa Clarita