Long awaited agreement with the Newhall School District finalized Tuesday night.
Newhall Land and the Newhall School district are celebrating a major agreement, signed and approved Tuesday night by the District's governing board. The deal will ensure that Newhall Land builds and furnishes as many K-6 schools as necessary to accommodate students in the planned Newhall Ranch community, who fall into the Newhall School District boundaries.
This new agreement overrides an earlier one dating back to 1995. At that time the District and Newhall Land brokered a historic deal to fund schools in both Westridge and Newhall Ranch. Times change, however, and soon both parties found the agreement to be insufficient.
"By the time we actually put it in place with Oak Hills school, everyone at the table realized that it was totally outdated because the economy had changed, the development had changed, the state rules and regulations had changed, and the way schools are built changed," said Newhall School District Superintendent Dr. Marc Winger. "So we realized that we needed to put together a new agreement."
Dr. Winger says that to Newhall Land's credit, they came to the table and began a series of negotiations and plans that lasted four years.
In the end, the agreement was met with praise from both parties.
"This was a huge sustained effort," said Dr. Winger. "This is just a relief to know that the problem is addressed. Even if it takes years for Newhall Land to get off the ground, the elementary school issue is resolved. Whoever is sitting in my seat, whether it's me or another superintendent, that person will know that all they have to do is crack open that agreement and start talking to Newhall Land about when we start building schools, because the mechanism is in place to do it."
"This updated agreement reflects the increased costs that are associated with school construction, it removes any funding uncertainties from the District's shoulders, and it also allows us to integrate the school more into the community design," said Marlee Lauffer, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Newhall Land. "I think together, it accomplishes our goals of creating great opportunities for education.
While the 14,600 acre Newhall Ranch Development, planned for the area west of I-5 and south of Hwy 126, hasn't started construction yet, both parties feel that the commitment is important for the community.
"It's essential to have neighborhood schools, and certainly people who have bought in Valencia over the years have appreciated the fact that their kids can walk to convenient elementary schools," said Lauffer.
This is not the first time Newhall Land has incorporated a school into the design of a community.
"The very first school that was built as part of Valencia back in the early 60's was Old Orchard Elementary School," Lauffer said. "It was an unusual design at the time because it had a neighborhood park and the paseos incorporated in it. Since then there have been many Newhall School District elementary schools that Newhall Land has partnered with to build."
This latest agreement is much more intricate than the 1995 version and it tackles the funding uncertainties caused by the state's shrinking role in footing the bill for schools.
Oak Hills elementary, which opened in 2005, provided an example of the increasing financial burden local school districts face.
"I think at that time it cost about $19 million dollars," said Lauffer. "Under this new agreement we're anticipating that new schools are going to cost about $30 million dollars each."
On top of the costs for new school technology, libraries and playground equipment, Newhall Land will also be picking up the tab for the expansion of the District's administrative offices to accommodate future growth.
The Newhall Ranch development doesn't just fall within the Newhall School District; Castaic and Saugus Union school districts also encompass some portion of the planned community.