Lawsuit against Cardiff School District dismissed

A rendering of the Cardiff School rebuild.

The United States District Court has dismissed the federal lawsuit filed against Cardiff School District over the Cardiff School rebuild.

On Nov. 5, the court denied Save the Park and Build the School’s request to extend the injunction and continue legal proceedings against the district. Per Judge Todd W. Robinson’s ruling, the district remains obligated to refrain from the “vast majority” of its planned construction within the boundary of George Berkich Park until it receives National Park Service approval.

A Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant agreement requires the district to maintain the land for recreational, public use unless a boundary adjustment is made. The district said it will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to resolve the remaining grant agreement issues associated with the project.

This was the second lawsuit filed against the district over the rebuild project. The layout of the new school encroaches onto the playfields in order to build a new pick-up/drop-off area and a multipurpose room. The district has stated that the design keeps the majority of the playfields intact while adding enhancements for educational programs as well as community use.

In a release, the district said the court’s ruling is a win for the parents, students and teachers of Cardiff School who will be moving into the newly built classrooms after the winter break.

“Unfortunately, the shortsighted actions of the small group of school opponents continue to impact the district’s ability to complete some of the much-needed student safety, educational and outdoor recreation improvements within the project,” said the district in a release. “To date, these opponents have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and caused students to attend school on a construction site that, but for the lawsuits, would have been completed last summer and opened to the public after hours for outdoor recreational use.”

“The district remains disheartened that this small group prioritized its own interests and used the courts to delay and increase the cost of the project by attempting to force the district to accede to its selfish demands. However, the district will always fight for what is best for the students and community. It also hopes that these recent court rulings will cause the project opponents to finally consider these same interests.”

Eleanor Musick, director for Save the Park, said they are satisfied that the result of the lawsuit remains unchanged, that the district cannot do further construction within Berkich Park without final National Park Service approval. In September, the National Park Service (NPS) reversed its approval of the boundary adjustment, five months after it approved it. The district had worked for two and a half years to gain compliance.

“Parenthetically, the district suggests that Save the Park’s actions forced the district to hold classes in leaky portable classrooms on the construction site — this is completely false,” Musick said. “A district representative admitted under oath that they chose to place children in the portable classrooms on-site during construction as a cost-saving measure. Similarly, the district’s claim that ‘but for the lawsuits [the construction site] would have been completed last summer and open to the public’ is untrue.”

Musick said the district’s own signs and banners stated that the rebuild project would last from summer 2019 to spring 2021. The district has said that due to construction being halted for three months in 2019 due to the first lawsuit and again this summer due to the temporary injunction, the construction timeline has been extended. Students return to campus this fall was delayed.

The district’s settlement agreement with Save the Park includes provisions that require the district to restore the park to its pre-construction condition if it does not receive NPS approval by February 2022.

“Save the Park hopes that wiser minds prevail this time around and the district accepts that it must change its plans,” Musick said. “We will continue to monitor the review process to ensure it goes properly this time.”

The district said it will provide announcements about the rebuild project in the coming months, and that they will continue to focus on creating the “safest and most rewarding educational experiences for its students.”