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Cardiff parents protest after lawsuit halts elementary school construction

Posted at 6:50 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 21:50:19-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Pint-sized protesters lined the sidewalks outside of Cardiff Elementary School, holding signs reading "BUILD OUR SCHOOL!"

The District began construction in June, tearing down old buildings to make room for new ones. The project is being paid for by a $22 million voter-approved bond from 2016.

Principal Julie Parker says the school is over 100 years old and that the buildings they tore down were 60-70 years old and outdated.

Right now, students are in temporary accommodations.

"These are our eight portables, these portables are about ten years over their lifespan now, as you can see they're rusted out."

Parker says rainwater leaked into three of the portable classrooms during recent storms.

She says the temporary accommodations were only supposed to last a year, but a new lawsuit is now halting the construction progress.

"We're continuing to pursue legal avenues in order to make construction continue again because it is obviously detrimental to students who attend school here," said Parker.

A group called Save the Park and Build the School filed the lawsuit.

Cardiff resident Eleanor Musick is the group's director.

"We're only asking the District to follow the law, and who more than a public agency should we be able to expect to follow the law? And they gambled. They gambled with our taxpayer money, they gambled with the kids, they tore down all those buildings when they didn't have all the approvals, and they still don't have the approvals," said Musick.

Save the Park believes the District had an inadequate environmental impact report, which a judge agreed with. They also allege the school district's plan goes beyond what was initially approved in the bond measure.

The group also opposes the construction of a multipurpose building on District-owned land, which is open to the public after hours. The land has federal protections, and Musick says the District only received a conditional approval from the National Park Service to move forward.

But the District says it is subject to two straightforward conditions that are in the process of being completed.

They add that the California Department of Parks and Recreation Office of Grants and Local Services approval recommends that the National Park Service approve the grant boundary adjustment for the project.

Principal Parker says putting the multipurpose room on that land, and separating it from the school, is essential because the building will sometimes need to be accessed by the public for non-school-related functions.

Parents say they're frustrated by the lawsuit and don't want to see their kids stuck in temporary accommodations while the legal process plays out.

"There's no covered eating area so when it rains their backpacks get wet, they have to eat in their classroom. They have very limited play area. They have no common room to gather in. But we all knew this was the small price, and the expectation was that students would be back in classrooms next year," said Annessa Baird, a Cardiff parent of two.

Many parents believe Save the Park's agenda is questionable and that they actually want to protect their ocean views.

Musick says that's false and that her view was worse before construction.

"One of the first things I tried to argue and plead with the District was don't cut down all the trees. There were some beautiful 75-year-old Torrey pines on that property, and they blocked my ocean view. And they're all cut down now," said Musick.

She also says claims that their group is made up of only a handful of people is false and that dozens have contributed to the effort.

The District says it's disappointed with the judge's ruling and that it will add to mounting legal fees and project costs.

The District intends to ask the Court to reconsider its decision.