September 4, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Del, education, Fight, Mar, move, School, special, vows


Categories: Special needs education

Del Mar says particular training college should transfer; head of college vows to battle

The future of a private school serving around 100 students with disabilities is in the air after Del Mar City Council voted last month to end the school’s lease 40 years earlier.

Winston School supporters say the move feels like a slap in the face because Winston supporters raised millions of dollars to help the city buy the land the school is on, on the premise that it is the home for the special education school would be.

Winston’s 55-year lease should run through June 2063, supporters said. Now the school has to leave until June 2023.

Dena Harris, the headmistress of Winston, said the school was wrongly being ousted from the city in what she believed was a land grab. She said she was ready to sit in and, if necessary, be chained to the school before evicting her school.

“I have no intention of leaving. I’m not giving up my country, period. Nobody is taking our school away, ”said Harris. “These are kids working their butts and we are being crushed by Goliath.”

The Winston School was founded in 1988 and serves 85 to 120 middle and high school students simultaneously, Harris said.

Approximately half of Winston’s students are students with disabilities in public schools enrolled there by school districts that cannot serve them adequately. Winston serves students from 13 districts.

The school offers students a variety of services such as language and occupational therapy and counseling. It offers small class sizes from six to twelve students.

Several parents said Winston was a lifesaver for their children, some of whom were bullied and relegated or overlooked in their previous traditional schools.

Laura DeMarco, a Del Mar resident whose daughter graduated from Winston, said her daughter had severe dyslexia and hated attending school in the Del Mar School District. At the time, it was a daily struggle to get her daughter to go to school, DeMarco said, because she was being bullied at school.

When DeMarco moved her daughter to Winston, she began to love school, her mother said.

“I didn’t know my daughter would need this school,” she said. “I wish anyone who had a child like mine could visit Winston.”

Unlike some other schools for students with disabilities, Winston awards high school diplomas rather than certificates and offers coursework that qualifies for admission to the state’s public universities, Harris said.

That’s one of the reasons Michelle DeMond wanted her son Robert DeMond to go to Winston; she knew he was capable of more than one certificate, she said.

Robert was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism spectrum disorder, and struggled in his original public school because the environment was too overwhelming, his mother said. His teachers didn’t have time to help him one on one and the school was too loud, bright and busy, she said.

After Robert enrolled in seventh grade with Winston, his grades went from F to A and B, he said. He praises the individual help he received from Winston teachers.

“That was the crucial turning point in my training,” he said.

He graduated from Winston last year and is now attending Miramar and Mesa colleges with plans for an art school next year. He said he didn’t want Winston School to move away from Del Mar.

“There are more children who need the opportunity that Winston School offers,” he said. “Winston has to stay there because they have to help the later generations of students who need the same services as me.”

Quarrel back and forth

One of the terms of Winston’s lease with the city is that the school must plan and go through a major renovation.

As city officials say, Winston has not developed a thorough remodeling plan to meet the city’s needs. City officials went back and forth for months, asking Winston for more details and pointing out issues that were missing with the school’s remodeling plan.

City officials said they kept extending the deadline because something was always missing from the school’s submitted plan.

“We gave them one extension after another,” said Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland. “If you say that the city has always developed new criteria, it’s because their plan has constantly changed. It was frustrating on all sides. “

Ultimately, the city said the school missed a July 23 deadline for submitting a revised remodeling plan.

“I was incredibly disappointed when the July 23 deadline came and went and Winston still hadn’t fulfilled their plans,” said Gaasterland. “I was just so, so sad about it.”

But Harris, who says she did her PhD in institutions and sits on the founding committees of San Diego Unified, says the school came up with the requested plans in a timely manner. She said it was the city that prolonged the process and caused the school to fail by repeatedly requesting additional information and changes.

For example, Harris said the city told the school to change its parking lot and dumpster. When the school made these changes, the city council said the changes were too late.

“They moved the goal post,” said Harris. “The statement that they gave us more time … they gave themselves more time; not us.”

Harris and DeMarco said that by forcing Winston to move, the city is betraying the wishes of donors who have donated millions of dollars so that the city can buy the land on which the school stands.

Winston is located on the city’s Shores Property, acquired by the city in 2007 from the Del Mar School District, which houses the city’s Shores Amusement Park.

The Shores property cost $ 8.5 million. The city couldn’t afford to buy it on its own, so Winston raised $ 3 million in donations while another $ 2.5 million was raised from community members, said DeMarco, who led the community’s fundraiser.

DeMarco said community members donated money on the premise that it would remain a public park and location for Winston School.

“There were lots of people hearing the incredible transformation stories the Winston parents had about how this school literally saved their children’s lives and the happiness of their families,” said DeMarco. “There was no way we could have raised $ 2.5 million without Winston.”

Gaasterland said the city has added Winston’s rent to its donations each year, and Winston will get back the $ 3 million it raised for Shores Park by 2023.

Gaasterland said “the city has no idea” how it will use the land when Winston is gone.

However, Winston School supporters say the city has indicated it plans to use the land the school is on to build affordable housing.

In a 2018 study of affordable housing, city advisors suggested several scenarios where portions of the Shores property could be repurposed as residential to create affordable housing. And in 2018, Winston City officials suggested that the school could build and manage affordable housing units to help bring rent down.

Del Mar faces a government mandate to provide land for 113 units of affordable housing, according to its housing plan passed in March.

The city has attempted to plan affordable housing on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but it’s unclear whether the board of directors running the fairgrounds will agree.

Meanwhile, city councilors have stated they don’t want to build affordable housing, and Gaasterland has fought proposals to place affordable housing on the city’s north and south cliffs.

The Shores property is currently designated for public use, which prohibits residential development. However, according to the city’s housing plan, the city will change the zoning of public facilities to allow for residential development.


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