San Dieguito board to consider district office upgrades

A conceptual rendering for a new board room in the SDUHSD office building.

The San Dieguito Union High School District board approved additional architectural design work aimed at improving its Encinitas district office building, including a reconfigured board room and more efficient workspaces for staff.

At the May 20 meeting, the board authorized an additional $200,000 to Ruhnau Clarke Architects to expand the scope of its architectural designs for the building. The expanded scope would bump the preliminary estimates of the total district office improvements from $2.4 million to $7.5 million. The board only committed to funding the architectural designs, they have not year approved the actual construction.

Built in 1979 as a medical office building, the building at 710 Encinitas Boulevard has “outgrown its usefulness” and is need of repairs: “It does need a refresh, there’s no doubt about it,” said SDUHSD President Mo Muir.

In 2019 former Superintendent Robert Haley launched a feasibility study for a new district office and last March proposed a potential $20.8 million new district office on the empty lower field at Earl Warren Middle School, which drew opposition from community members. The board voted not to pursue that option and instead to renovate its existing building.

In March 2020, the board approved spending the initial $257,673 with Ruhnau Clarke Architect for architectural/engineering services for the beginning of the modernization of the Encinitas building, with a concentration on the improvements necessary to promote greater energy efficiency and building code compliance. Items include roofing, removing and replacing the heating ventilation and air conditioning system, replacing single pane windows and addressing “significant” Americans with Disabilities Act issues related to the elevator, stairways and restrooms. Interior finishes that are mismatched and worn would also be modernized.

As the work will be impacting about 70% of the board room space, Director of Maintenance and Operations John Addleman said there is an opportunity to expand the scope of the project to modernize the board room.

In initial conceptual renderings, the board dais and ramp would be removed to allow for a more functional and flexible use of the space—when not used for meetings it could serve as a training space for staff. The kitchenette would also be removed to further open up the space, new flooring and finishes would be added as well as improved technology.

The board room renovation alone would bring the projected cost up to $4.8 million.

With the nod from the board, the architects will also look at reorganizing all of the building’s workspaces to enhance operational efficiency, create spaces for staff collaboration and confidential sessions as well as re-imagine the public-serving entrance of the office. Those improvements, with the board room renovation, bring the project cost to an estimated $7.5 million.

The improvements would promote a more safe, effective and professional workspace for the 50 to 75 classified employees that come to work there, said Deputy Superintendent Mark Miller.

“The work being done here is on behalf of students and coming to a safe, clean environment every day does speak to morale,” Miller said.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Tina Douglas said she can work anywhere but she is concerned that it is not a great working environment for the staff— departments are spread out, payroll works out of a closet with no windows, and people eat lunches in their cars or at their desks due to the condition of the lunch room.

She said that the district always wants to make sure students come first but they do have an opportunity with dollars that aren’t earmarked for school sites to ensure that their employees feel valued as well. According to Addleman, the district has funds available in reimbursement dollars from the state from Pacific Middle School’s construction back in 2015—about $19 million is available that has to be used for construction.

SDUHSD Vice President Melisse Mossy said $7.5 million was a lot to swallow but was comfortable that the board was not committing to that dollar amount that day and would have an opportunity to scale back if needed. Trustee Michael Allman said he was also concerned about spending taxpayer money but said that the district should have a quality building that will last for several years to come.

Funds for the potential district office renovation would not come from the district’s general fund or from Prop AA monies. Of the $449 million Prop AA bond, there is $84 million left to be bonded against, drawing out to 2035. The board is planning a facilities workshop on June 10 to prioritize future projects—48 of the 74 identified AA projects have been completed.