by Photo by Sarah Berjan

Castle Park High School students, parents, and alumni gathered Thursday night to call on the Sweetwater Union High School District for transparency, change, and to ask why the nearly 60-year-old campus had been allowed to succumb to deplorable conditions. 

More than a hundred people convened at the school's student union to bring awareness, demand renovations, and ask district officials “why not us?”.  An anonymous social media page has documented the conditions of the school since early May, with reports of mold, large cracks, deteriorating facilities, and even termite infestations. 

Adrian Gomez, a student-athlete at Castle Park, has been at the forefront of the movement by representing student voices. Gomez and several student speakers shared their concerns and frustrations with facility conditions they said are unsafe and have led to injuries among student-athletes. 

“I’ve witnessed firsthand an athlete come down to our bathroom, and while I walked in, they laughed,” Gomez said. “I’m sure everyone has felt this embarrassment that we have to deal with every day. I don't blame other people that complain about coming here because it is true. Our school is one of the most outdated-school in the district. How are adults, let alone our school administration and board members, okay with having facilities similar, if not worse than detention centers?”

Parents and community members at the meeting were visibly frustrated by the conditions of the school, pointing to the conditions of the student union and citing posts from the anonymous page. 

Sweetwater's Chief Facilities and Operations officer Janea Quirk attended the meeting and presented on district efforts to maintain the school. She reported that during the 2021-22 school year, there were 317 work orders completed on the campus and 63 active work orders in the system. 

Quirk noted that in December 2021, the school scored 98 percent on a Facility Inspection Tool (FIT), which gives an assessment of all elements on the campus. She said that the campus had scheduled its ASB HVAC to be replaced through July. 

The district had produced a master plan for Castle Park High School in 2018 to capture the needs and future renovations of the school. The master plan includes a detailed analysis of the campus. 

According to Quirk, the district relies on bond measures and propositions to fund facilities. In 2006, the district was awarded Proposition O, a $644 million general obligation bond to update classrooms, restrooms, and technology, improve handicap accessibility, remove asbestos and lead paint and upgrade fire and life safety systems. The district spent $335 million to date and has $309 million remaining authorization. 

Measure DD was passed by voters in 2018 which authorized the district to issue up to $403 million in bonds to fund repairs, upgrades, safety measures, and program instruction. There is no issuance to date. 

“That is not money we have in our pocket,” Quirk said. “We have to go through issuance, and we are gearing up for both measures.”

Financial analysis shows that the district can pursue the issuance of about $36 million for Proposition O and about $160 million for Measure DD in the fall.
“We're currently trending to have three issuances over six to eight years,” Quirk said. 

The district sent Chula Vista Today the following statement: 

“The Sweetwater District takes all concerns, including those about facilities very seriously. The district is pleased to work with the Castle Park High Community and create a space that provides opportunities for dialogue on facility improvements. In addition, the district has dispatched its maintenance department to Castle Park High to review and take account of facility needs and will continue to identify areas and opportunities for facility improvements districtwide. As the district prepares for future facility bond sales, it will continue to work with school sites, including Castle Park High School to address facility needs.” 

Students and parents plan to bring their requests and concerns directly to district board members at the next school board meeting on June 13. 

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