The South Bay Union School District (SBUSD) Board of Trustees agreed to explore the idea of allowing their playgrounds to be used as public parks at schools in Imperial Beach after school hours.
Members of staff from the city and school district will now examine the possibility and possible costs associated with an agreement. Issues related to cleaning, repairs, liability, maintenance and other potential costs for pocket parks need to be addressed before a deal could be considered, trustees said at a meeting Thursday.
Trustee Chris Brown said she wants to make sure the city takes on a fair share of costs associated with city-school parks.
Money needed for the agreement could come from the City of Imperial Beach, Mayor Jim Janney said, but Brown said she is unclear on if the city has money to fund joint-use if it cannot afford its Sports Park.
"My main issue is if we do go to the contract, we need some financial support from the city, but yet they say they don't have any money for parks, so something needs to be cleared up here," she said.
Trustee Barbara Elliott-Sanders agreed.
"That is my concern, that we make sure that if we were to do a partnership that it would be an equal partnership and that it be a wise decision for us financially," she said.
Though a lack of city funds was part of the reasoning behind a proposal by the city to hand management of its Sports Park complex to the South Bay Family YMCA, Janney told the school board a deal with the YMCA was being sought primarily to increase programs offered to Imperial Beach residents.
Both the district and city have limited funding, Superintendent Carol Parish said.
Last month school board president Elvia Aguilar and Parish met with Janney and City Manager Gary Brown to discuss the idea.
"The focus is Central [Elementary School] but I think we need to go back to Bayside and look at what's working and what went wrong," Parish said.
The city and school district had a joint-use agreement that expired in 1998 at schools including Bayside Elementary School. A request was made by the city in 2006 to return to an agreement but no deal was ever made, the city's Public Works Director director Hank Levien told IB Patch.
Earlier this year Janney suggested an agreement be reinstated particularly to provide open space for residents of neighborhoods like Oneonta and Central who have been "underserved" by the city.
"The eastern portion of IB is lacking in what I call pocket parks that would be available to young mothers with kids," Janney told the school board. "If you so desire to have your staff work with our staff and taking a school such as Central [Elementary School] to find out if there is a way for us to have a playground atmosphere."
"I'm only asking that you look at what we could do. Partnership is about all we have left in Imperial Beach. We have no land obviously."
In 1998 citizens met in neighborhoods across Imperial Beach to participate in putting together a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy. The opinions of residents, business owners and civic leaders were combined to make a list of five top goals for IB's six neighborhoods.
Among those listed for the Oneonta neighborhood was pocket parks, or small parks for children to play.
The city attempted to purchase land in some parts of southeast IB but deals fell through, said Public Works Department director Hank Levien who led the effort.
The parks would only operate after school hours but safety issues would still need to be addressed, said Bob Nicholson.
Nicholson is a former district employee who now works as a Senior Associate with Eric Hall & Associates.
"In today's environment, security is paramount. So opening up your schools to the public would require some kind of coordinating off of your facilities to make sure they're safe and your students are well protected and things don't happen," he said.
Other state requirements could also interfere at allowing parks at some schools, he said.
"I totally understand your concerns," Janney said. That's one thing we don't want to do, interfere with safety."
As a member of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's Senior Volunteer Patrol, Brown said she has often come across people who still believe the agreement between the city and district still exists at Bayside Elementary School.
On weekends people regularly use playground equipment only suitable for elementary school students, litter and don't clean up after their dogs, she said.
"I would love to have pocket parks but it just we really need to check into it more than we have now," she said. "We've got to have something thats a little bit stronger than what we had with Bayside and it's going to take some money."
The city did not contribute an equal amount of money for a joint-use at Bayside Elementary School, Brown said.
"I want to look at this positively. It sounds challenging but I think things can be negotiated and worked out," said Trustee Nick Inzunza.
SBUSD has six schools in Imperial Beach: Central Elementary School, Imperial Beach Charter School, Oneonta Elementary School, Imperial Beach Charter School-West View Campus, Bayside Elementary School and VIP Village Preschool.