PALMDALE — It is unclear yet whether the campus will have a school to house, but the Palmdale Planning Commission on Thursday approved a major modification to the conditional use permit for the Guidance Charter School campus to allow for occupancy of the main school buildings while construction of the remainder of the campus is phased in as funds are available.
The commission voted 3-0 to approve the modification, with commissioners Deana Ward and Angel Olvera absent.
The $31.6 million, 87,000-square-foot campus at Avenue R and 40th Street East was built to house sixth- through 12th-grade students for Guidance Charter School, which was chartered through Palmdale School District at the time construction began.
The campus was set to open in August. But after the petitions for the original Guidance Charter School and the proposed Guidance Charter School 2 were denied, it remains closed. Most of the students who attended Guidance Charter School returned to their respective districts.
A petition for Guidance Charter School-1 is under consideration by the Antelope Valley Union High School District; if approved, students will be housed at the new campus.
“I see this (modification to the conditional use permit) as a smart move to provide safety in the area and to allow potentially the building to actually be occupied at some point,” Planning Commission Chairman Stacia Nemeth said. “It breaks my heart when I drive by there to see such a lovely facility and there’s nothing going on at it. If this is one way for us to actually get occupied space there, that would be ideal.”
“If things don’t work out for Guidance Charter to be there, at least it would be a usable piece of property for some other organization to occupy,” she said.
The modification to the conditional use permit, which was originally approved in 2016, sets up the campus completion in three phases. The first phase, which Executive Director Kamal Al-Khatib said is almost 99% complete, consists of two buildings and a portion of a third and eight basketball courts, along with the site improvements such as sidewalks, parking lots, landscaping and fencing.
The second phase will include completion of the baseball and football fields with a running track, associated spectator seating and digital scoreboard.
The third phase will include the remainder of the partially-completed building from phase one, a gymnasium, outdoor pool facility, library, locker rooms and faculty administrative space and support areas, according to the staff report.
By dividing the project into phases, the school may obtain a temporary occupancy permit for the first phase, allowing for its use before the remaining areas are completed, Assistant Planner Matthew Alcuran said.
The permit modification requires a six-foot fence, which is already in place, to separate the first phase from the unfinished areas of the campus to prohibit access by students.
Nemeth questioned postponing road improvements required in the original permit until the third phase, and how that delay would impact traffic flow around the campus should it open to students.
“I would just like to make sure our traffic situation would not be impacted,” she said.
Because all the classroom buildings will not be completed in the first phase, the student population will be less than originally planned and therefore will have a lower impact on traffic than at full build-out, according to city traffic engineering staff.
Construction of the new campus was financed with $29.58 million in tax-exempt and taxable bonds issued in March 2017 by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority.
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