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Ventura County

Developer Pledges Funds for New School

Education: The offer comes as welcome news to the Oxnard elementary district, which has been unable to keep up with growth.

June 22, 2002|KARIN GRENNAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The company behind the proposed Seabridge neighborhood has agreed to provide up to $15 million to build a new grade school.

"It is, for us, very extraordinary," said Oxnard Elementary School District Supt. Richard Duarte.

The district has been on a year-round, multitrack system for more than 20 years to accommodate the maximum number of students possible, but has not been able to build schools quickly enough to keep up with recent growth, he said.

There are few places left to build schools in Oxnard considering that land in the coastal zone, in SOAR-protected areas and surrounding Oxnard Airport is off-limits.

In a deal announced Thursday, Mandalay Bay Partners agreed to pay more than half of the approximate $27-million cost of buying land, planning and building a school, said Bill Wynne one of the developers of the 700-home subdivision.

The school district hopes to receive matching funds from a state bond measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Assuming the bond passes and the district receives a share, the partnership--whose parent company built Rancho Santa Margarita in Orange County--will pay the bulk of the remaining costs, up to $15 million, Wynne said.

If the district does not receive the bond money, district lawyer Marilyn Cleveland said the two sides will have to come up with a new cost-sharing plan.

By law, the 135-acre Seabridge project, located west of Victoria Avenue near Wooley Road in the Mandalay Bay area, is required to pay only about $4 million to the school district, Wynne said. Duarte said most developers are only willing to pay the minimum required.

While significant for the elementary school district, the agreement doesn't quite compare to the one reached between the developer of the $750-million RiverPark community and the Rio Elementary School District earlier this year.

RiverPark backers agreed to donate the land and spend $47 million to build and equip three schools, with or without the assistance of state bond money.

The Oxnard Elementary School District has worked with the developers of the $100-million Seabridge project for three years, Duarte said.

In addition to a desire to "do the right thing," Wynne said providing substantial support for a new school would benefit his company.

With overcrowding such a concern in Oxnard, the addition of a new school would be a selling point to prospective buyers, he said.

Wynne said the city and the school district made it clear from the start that providing a school was a top priority.

Addressing the city's concerns helped the company move through the approval process relatively quickly at a time when the land available for development is rapidly diminishing, he said.

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