Alpine taxpayers petition for unified district with its own high school

Group wants 'divorce' from GUHSD

SAN DIEGO - Some Alpine residents asked the San Diego County Board of Education to allow the formation of an independent unified school district.

Currently, the Alpine district does not have its own high school.

They say they have paid extra taxes over more than a decade for a new high school, but the Grossmont Union High School District has not built the school as specified in bond language.

A group of business owners, elected officials and parents are asking for a $90 million settlement from the district. The money would pay for land the district already bought for the new school and would help to build a high school. Alpine has its own schools, but not a high school.

"We need to do something for our kids," former Alpine Elementary School District Superintendent Al Haven said.

Haven said Alpine residents were misled into voting for two bond measures worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He said Grossmont Union High School District officials promised Alpine voters a high school in exchange for Proposition H and Proposition U, both worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Of course we were misled," parent Sal Casamassia said. "I call it bait and switch."

Casamassia's daughter was in elementary school when he got involved. He said she will have to commute an hour each way to high school because Alpine won't see a local high school before she graduates.

"We came to a deal, an agreement, a binding commitment," he said.

GUHSD's deputy superintendent, Scott Patterson, blamed falling home prices and a decreasing student population on the failure to build a new high school in Alpine.

"It's very unfortunate that the economics and the demographics in the district are moving in the opposite direction from what we'd all like them to move," Patterson said.

Alpine business owner Chris Loarie said he wouldn't have moved to Alpine if he knew a high school wouldn't be built.

"This really isn't even me fighting for my children any longer, this is fighting for the long-term viability of the school district and this community," he said.

The Alpine unification group also cited a San Diego County Grand Jury report last year in their defense to divorce from the district.

The report, issued in 2013, criticized the board's promises to build a new school. The district responded to the report claiming it was inaccurate.

Alpine represents approximately five percent of GUHSD's tax base.  

The district plans to fight Alpine's proposed succession.

Administrators and school board members cite low enrollment that is not enough to support a new high school. Some trustees said they are concerned about the demographics, and a resolution states they are "concerned that a newly formed Alpine Unified School District will further isolate an already segregated White population."

At a school board meeting several weeks ago, members also questioned whether an Alpine high school could offer a diverse curriculum.

Tuesday night's hearing is the first of two before the county board of education. The second hearing is set for 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 7, at the East County Regional Education Center, 924 E. Main Street, El Cajon. Click here for more info.

Ultimately, the decision for a unified school district in Alpine will be left to the state.

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