Hart district officials broke ground on construction of the future Castaic High School as residents protested unwelcome traffic on private roads in Romero Canyon Wednesday morning.
“We went through nine sites, three superintendents, five board members, 12 senior cabinet members and more than 30,000 students trying to get this high school built,” said Hart district board President Joe Messina.
“And it wasn’t for a lack of trying,” he said, alluding to the protesters and previous school-site disputes.
The small group of protesters reminded everyone winding through the nearly 2-mile road leading to the groundbreaking site that they “are on a private road” and to “slow down,” as waste bins and diagonally parked vehicles were on the path, ostensibly to impede traffic.
The site plans to open to several hundred ninth-graders in August 2016, according to Hart district Superintendent Rob Challinor, who added that a principal would be selected in spring of that year to work with Castaic Middle School students.
The sixth- through eighth-grade school will be a primary feeder school for the high school. Currently, Castaic area students alternate attendance between West Ranch and Valencia high schools.
“Many site have been recommended and roadblocks have been overcome along the way,” said county Fifth District Supervisor Michael Antonovich, noting that work for a Castaic High site began in earnest in 2001.
“Now, we need to be good neighbors and work together, just as those who live adjacent to the property need to be a good neighbor,” Antonovich said, adding that the county plans to work with the school as things like storm drains and sewer hookups are added to the 198-acre school site.
The hilly site has roughly 7 million tons of dirt to be moved before it’s readyfor construction to commence.
About a dozen local residents down the road from the groundbreaking were less worried about being neighborly and more concerned with roadway access to the high school, which has been a long-running concern.
“I am aware we need a high school, but this is not the right location,” said Glen Ennis, a Romero Canyon Road resident.
Ennis said he lived adjacent to the ungraded high school’s property lot, which was listed at 303000 Romero Canyon Road, about two miles west of where Romero Canyon and Hasley Canyon roads meet.
“I’m on the main straightaway, near a fire hydrant, which is why I bought that property — where all the cars are driving through,” he said, adding that residents spent $80,000 to get the road built and now they’re responsible for it because it’s a private road.
“(Hart distrct officials) got my first letter in 2010,” Ennis said, “because there’s not enough access to the site.”
The district plans to build a northern access point, Messina said.
“Good things happen to those who wait,” noted Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, recalling the representatives before him — some of whom he worked for — during what he
described as a decades-long effort to get a high school built in Castaic.
“I’m just glad there’s not term limits for high school sites,” Wilk said jokingly to the crowd. “Or we would never have a site for this high school.”