A school is so much more than a building, but there is a lot of rejoicing by teachers, staff, students, and parents at the two new elementary campuses on Camp Pendleton. The state-of-art schools are in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District.
San Onofre School, located just east of I-5 and south of San Clemente, was completed in April 2019. The school can serve 900 students of military families.
"Our beautiful high tech modernized school has created a sense of pride and allowed our students to grow academically, assessing the state-of-the-art technology and becoming 21st-century learners," said Lillian Perez, principal of San Onofre School.
The new buildings for Mary Fay Pendleton School, located between the Ammunition Road gate in Fallbrook and San Luis Rey gate in Oceanside, are nearly completed, so will be ready for students when they return to classes on Aug. 16.
"Students at Mary Fay are very excited for the new school," said Brian Frost, principal. "They have been watching the construction for two years now. They can hardly wait to have access to this beautiful new facility, especially considering the last year with COVID restrictions limiting a lot of the space students can go and interact in. It is extremely honoring to our military families to be placed in brand new state of the art facilities."
District officials are also smiling, as most of the cost – more than $110 million for the two schools – has been covered by state and federal funds. The district expense is less than one half of one percent of the projects, said Bryson Bickler, Director of Facilities for FUESD.
"I'm so proud of our team!" Bickler said. "The fact we are on schedule through the difficult circumstances of COVID-19 make this project one of the great K-12 construction success stories in the state of California."
"We consistently hear how beautiful and thoughtfully designed these campuses are for modern day learning," he added.
The updates were certainly needed. Mary Fay Pendleton School was constructed in 1954. The old San Onofre school was originally built in 1974. Bickler said both schools were past their useful life. After a needs assessment by the Department of Defense, they were selected along with others across the U.S. to be replaced.
San Onofre was built first, Bickler said, because it needed seismic upgrades. Construction of the new school was expected to be complete within two years, but it took less than 18 months.
The administrator said the district received a federal grant of $42,752,939 for San Onofre School. With state funding of $10,688,935, the total package was $53,441,174.
He said Mary Fay Pendleton School funding was through a federal grant of $47,952,003 and $11,988,001 from the state – a total of $59,940,004.
The federal grant required a 20% match which the district was finally able to have the state cover after negotiating for years.
Construction of both schools involved building the new campus next to the old buildings while they were in use. This was to avoid having to temporarily relocate students and staff. Phase 2 at each site includes tearing down the old buildings and construction on the parking lots and play fields. That was completed at San Onofre, and is still to be started at Mary Fay since classes are still held in the old buildings.