2016-08-26 / Editorials
District needs space to collaborate and grow
The Simi Valley Unified School District seems to be getting by just fine at its Cochran Street headquarters.
Then again, anyone who steps foot inside the roughly 20,000-square-foot Educational Service Center can immediately see why Ventura County’s second largest school district is in need of a serious facilities boost.
Built in the 1960s, the Educational Service Center comprises the district’s main offices. It houses some 80 employees, including the district’s administrative staff, as well as the business, information technology, and food services departments.
Besides the maze of a floor plan — which might have worked well decades ago, before “collaboration” became the key word in running a school district — the building has miniscule meeting spaces, no real lobby and no public board room.
Each time the school board holds a public meeting, trustees and district staff must bring themselves and all their materials to the Simi Valley City Council chambers 4½ miles away. That may seem like a small inconvenience, but remember those extra minutes spent packing up documents and traveling back and forth are funded by our taxpayer dollars.
Small bits of inefficiency add up. But without the space it needs, what other option does the 17,600-student district have?
Earlier this month SVUSD was, unfortunately, forced to terminate escrow with Beverly Hills-based Hufsdar Investments, which had planned to buy the entire property at 875 E. Cochran St., including the separate maintenance and facilities hub and warehouse, for $7 million.
The deal was terminated mainly because the district was unable to find a new home within the six-month contingency period outlined in the agreement, which ended Aug. 22.
When the district began the process of selling its headquarters more than a year ago, the city had a fair number of vacancies in commercial and industrial areas. But a lot has changed since then.
“Availability has gone down and we have not been able to find a location for us to move into,” said Ron Todo, associate superintendent of business services.
There’s also the matter of an earthquake fault line running through one small corner of the property that is further complicating the sale of the site.
The good news: The district has a plan.
Officials are currently working on obtaining a waiver from the California Department of Education that could allow SVUSD to sell off the property piecemeal, and maybe help the main offices relocate sooner rather than later. The district expects to hear a decision within the next month or so.
In the meantime, we hope something opens up soon that will give SVUSD the space it needs to grow, collaborate and best serve our students and their families.
With all the positive changes the district has been making on the operational front, the faculty and staff certainly deserve room to stretch.