A plan to redesign Marco Forster Junior High School has temporarily stalled construction of a new city sports park at the southwest corner of the city-owned Kinoshita Ranch, which adjoins the school.
City officials approved the $607,000 first phase of the 25-acre sports complex last September and planned to break ground this month, but have delayed work at the request of Capistrano Unified School District officials who want to buy 10 acres of city land on the former ranch.
City and school officials will meet this week to discuss a new plan that could integrate the school with the sports complex, said Sharon Heider, the city's open space project manager. No agreement or details have been worked out, she said.
"We are trying to find out if there is a way to do these projects jointly, to see if the city can save some money and the school district can save some money," Heider said.
Jacqueline Price, a district spokeswoman, said the redesign of Marco Forster is part of a long-range, districtwide plan to change all junior highs to middle schools with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. The change would require adding 21 portable classrooms to the site, unless the school is revamped, Price said.
As part of the project, Del Obispo Elementary School, which is next to Marco Forster, would be relocated to another site in San Juan Capistrano, Price said. District officials have set a September, 1995, date for opening the new Marco Forster school, Price said.
In the meantime, the city had been planning the first phase of the sports park as part of its citywide Open Space Master Plan. The sports park will be the first project built in the city using money from a $21-million bond measure approved by residents in 1990. Bond money was used to buy the Kinoshita Ranch as the park site.
The first phase calls for three playing fields with dugouts, backstops and bleachers, a 117-space parking lot and a landscaped and lighted walkway next to Marco Forster, city officials said. The second phase is scheduled to include work on a 31,000-square-foot community center and more ball fields.
City Manager George Scarborough said the school district is interested in buying 10 acres of city-owned land.
"The delay is a concern to me, but the opportunity represented by the school district has to be evaluated," said Scarborough. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the changes Jan. 18, he said.
Councilwoman Carolyn Nash was also concerned that a city project that had taken months to prepare with many public meetings is being delayed.
"This could get explosive," Nash said. "We are under an awful lot of pressure to go along with (the school district). They might have a better plan, but who knows, we haven't heard enough about it."