49,000 existing square feet shrunk down to 21,500. Winners: none. Losers: the kids who love basketball, tetherball, gaga, hopscotch, wall-ball, tennis, and just generally have fun goofing around on the hard-court.
This post is the first time anyone has exposed the real numbers at stake – the district has been mute on the square footage reduction.
If you only have 30 seconds, here is our “ask” of you right now. Click one of the links immediately below. It will open a pre-crafted email from you to the DMUSD board member or Superintendent that you select, addressing this exact issue. All you have to do is click SEND. If you prefer to add your own thoughts or personalize it, better still.
By doing this right now you will be telling the board that it’s not ok to blindside us by taking away 27,500 square feet of blacktop play area from elementary school children, especially when the “trade” is for 44,000 square feet of new parking, 14,000 square feet of increased building footprint for a school with fewer students, and 17,000 square feet of “leftovers” given away to the public as a toddler lot outside school grounds, unusable by DMUSD students. You’ll be telling them it’s not ok to go from meeting Department of Education Rules for blacktop (50,000 square feet for DMH’s student population) to a mere 44% of the Rules, which were last reviewed by the DOE in June 2019.
If you have a few more minutes, keep reading below and we’ll show you the exact math and calculations – it’s about 2 minutes to read top to bottom, and we make it easy to follow with visuals. We’d love to have you take the dive with us!
Current school blacktop: 49,000 square feet
Let’s start with calculating the existing blacktop at the current Heights’ school.
There are five images below. The first image is the full blacktop, which we’ve divided into areas 1-4. The next four images show the square footage of each of the four areas, courtesy of Google Earth.
As you can see, the four areas highlighted by the yellow ellipses sum to 49,000 (3,359 + 23,102 + 17,215 + 5,413 = 49,089).
Two small things. First, there were some shaded areas in area #4 that looked like buildings, but if you look closely you will see they are properly included as blacktop. Second, we’re excluding the current kindergarten blacktop because we will analyze all kindergarten play area shrinkage in a separate post.
New school blacktop: 21,500 square feet
Now let’s turn to the new school design and the blacktop there.
Let’s start by identifying the blacktop in the new school design. Here we show the district’s infamous “rendering” of the new school. Although the rendering has been landscaped in a way which exaggerates the field size by about a third, on the positive side it does allow you to see what is blacktop and what is not. We’ve encircled the blacktop play area in blue.
Note that – to be consistent – we’ve excluded playground areas, just like we did when calculating the blacktop space at the existing school. We will address the shrinkage of playground areas separately, in a future post. We have also taken care to exclude tree wells on the perimeter of the blacktop, as those are not playable areas or blacktop.
Now that you can generally see what is blacktop, let’s mark the same areas on the site design for the new school.
Here you can see we went back to Google Earth for the punch line, which is shown above by Google Earth as 21,500 (rounding from 21,470) square feet, down from 49,000. The new blacktop is 44% of the current blacktop. You may have also noticed the change from three full basketball courts today, down to one full court (for 507 students!) in the new design.
The next thing to share with you is how we got the site plan onto Google Earth, which is important to get the final measurements of the new school right. It’s fairly easy, you just import the site plan as an overlay, drag it to the Del Mar Heights Elementary spot on the globe, and match the overlay to the existing school boundaries. Then all measurements are done by Google Earth, as before.
We don’t want you to have to trust that we did it right – we want you to see it for yourself. Below is a link to our video that shows the exact match of the overlay. In the video, we modulate the transparency of the overlay so that you can see the match with the existing school site underneath. You have to watch it a few times to line things up – we suggest targeting your eye on one point and watching that point to confirm it is correct, then moving on to another point, and another point until you’re convinced of the total fit of the overlay. It took a lot of patience and time for us to lay it down properly so we aren’t hesitant to share the end result.
Last, we wanted to show you where we get the numbers from the Department of Education. They come from the Guide to School Site Analysis and Development, published in 2000 and last reviewed by the Department in June 2019.
Below you’ll see two images from the pdf version of the guide. The first shows you that for a school having 151-300 students in grades 1-3 (like the Heights), the Department requires a minimum of 18,000 square feet of hardtop. The second shows you that for a school also having 151-300 students in grades 4-6 (like the Heights), the Department requires an additional minimum of 32,000 square feet of hardtop. Those numbers add up to 50,000 square feet of hardtop, which is what the current school now has (49,000). The new design is about 44% of what is required by DOE rules.
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