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CASTAIC DISTRICT EYES FUTURE OFFICIALS TRY TO FORESEE NEEDS FOR SCHOOLS.

Byline: Sue Doyle Staff Writer

CASTAIC - With more housing developments expected to crisscross the valley, local school districts are bracing for what the next decade will bring.

For the William S. Hart Union High School District, it means three new high schools, more alternative schools and special-education facilities.

At Newhall School District, there could be up to five new schools built.

And in the Castaic Union School District, four elementary schools and one middle school could be needed for the 2,500 students expected to move into future homes, apartments and condominiums.

For all the districts, looking at enrollment projections and deciding what to build is a delicate balancing act. Will the housing boom continue? What if fewer children move in than predicted? How do you build on the unknown?

``For us, the bottom line is to make sure we have schools and that we're not 'bungalow world,''' said Jim Gibson, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services who will take over as superintendent on July 1, referring to quickly set-up portable classroom buildings.

This week, Castaic district officials and the school board reviewed residential development plans and what their impact could be on the small school system expected to grow drastically with enrollment as families move in.

About 3,600 students now attend class in the district.

Unlike the Newhall district, where enrollment is dropping in its older neighborhoods, the Castaic district does not foresee any pockets of decline.

Kindergarten classes are predicted to continue growing strong through 2012, which means solid enrollment in succeeding grade levels as those students grow up, Gibson said. It also means a flurry of school construction will be needed if families and their children move into the area as planned.

Gibson said one school a year could be built, with construction starting in 2008 for an elementary school to serve Sloan Canyon. The district had planned to start construction on the Sloan Canyon elementary school this spring, but put the brakes on the project because there aren't enough students to fill it yet.

School board President David Huffaker said the district's pattern is for new school construction to happen simultaneously as houses are being built.

``If you do it too early, you're paying for a school where there are no kids,'' Huffaker said. ``If you wait too long, you have overcrowding and you have to bring portables on.''

Hart's three new high schools are expected to open in the next 10 years and will serve Castaic, the east valley near Sand Canyon, and the Newhall Ranch community to the west.

Castaic is within the boundaries of Hart's West Ranch High School.

Sue Doyle, (6610257-5254

sue.doyle(at)dailynews.com

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Jim Gibson, incoming superintendent of the Castaic Union School District, said schools are needed for an expected 2,500 new students.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 3, 2006
Words:475
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