The Cambrian

Cayucos students can finally attend Morro Bay High after historic agreement

Students from Morro Bay High School’s Class of 2014 celebrate graduation. Kids from Cayucos will now be able to attend the school instead of driving a longer distance north to Cambria.
Students from Morro Bay High School’s Class of 2014 celebrate graduation. Kids from Cayucos will now be able to attend the school instead of driving a longer distance north to Cambria. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

A decades-long dispute over where Cayucos students will attend high school — and who will pay for it — was resolved Thursday night in Cambria, allowing them for the first time to enroll at Morro Bay High instead of Coast Union in Cambria.

Coast Unified School District trustees approved a memorandum of understanding with the Cayucos Elementary and San Luis Coastal Unified school districts on a 5-0 vote.

Superintendent Vicki Schumacher called the MOU “unprecedented” and a “win-win-win” for the three districts. Schumacher said the agreement:

▪  Allows Cayucos students greater choice about where to attend high school.

▪  Provides an infusion of funds to San Luis Coastal, which is dealing with greater financial uncertainty with the looming closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

▪  Costs Coast Unified $550,000 over three years, but that’s a savings of roughly $1 million over the worst-case scenario.

The agreement takes effect with the 2018-19 school year.

Cayucos residents made up a sizable portion of a large audience at Thursday’s meeting, and many of them spoke out in favor of the MOU, which had already been approved unanimously by the other two districts.

Cayucos board President Terry Throop said the agreement creates “an equitable distribution of funds” and said Coast Union “will still have significantly more income per student than Cayucos or San Luis Coastal. … You’re not being left without resources.”

Cayucos Superintendent Scott Smith praised Schumacher for the “straightforward, honest negotiating style that has enabled us to get here tonight.”

And Coast Unified board President Samuel Shalhoub read a statement from the board that called the MOU “an extraordinary interagency accomplishment.”

The agreement “allows Coast Unified students, grades 6-8, to attend Cayucos or SLCUSD schools; allows Cayucos students, grades 6-8, to attend Coast or SLCUSD schools; and allows SLCUSD students, grades 6-8, to attend Cayucos or Coast schools. Additionally, this allows Coast Unified students, grades 9-12, who reside in Cayucos, to attend SLCUSD schools.”

Cayucos parents have long sought to send their students to Morro Bay High School, which is closer to their community than Coast Union; moreover, parents of Cayucos youths are more likely to drive south along Highway 1 for work.

The agreement that has sent Cayucos kids north to Cambria was established before Morro Bay had a high school, at a time when Coast Union was closer than what was then the nearest alternative — San Luis Obispo High School.

In 2012, a survey of 440 Cayucos residents found that 89 percent supported sending the community’s children to Morro Bay rather than Coast Union.

That same year, one parent estimated that round-trip mileage from Cayucos would be 1,249 to Morro Bay High and 6,176 to Coast Union. At this past Thursday’s meeting, another parent said it was 21 miles to Coast for his child, fully three times as far as the distance to MBHS.

Budget cuts

A number of audience members also spoke Thursday in opposition to budget cuts that eliminate four teaching positions in the Coast Unified district.

The district had initially proposed dropping one other position as well, after five instructors accepted offers of early retirement. But the board voted to salvage an agriculture teaching post that had been on the chopping block after a large contingent of ag supporters protested at trustees’ January meeting.

On Thursday, however, some speakers questioned why the ag department had been singled out, arguing that other positions, such as a teacher in the district’s RTI (Response to Intervention) program, also deserved to be spared.

Suzanne Kennedy, librarian at Santa Lucia Middle School, called upon the district to establish clear priorities.

“We need input on what your priorities are,” Kennedy said. “Where is the biggest need in the district?”

She suggested the need was greatest at Cambria Grammar School.

“We have a real problem with literacy — the kids that are coming into the district are illiterate,” she said. “We have a strategic plan, and I think we need to stick with it.”

Some speakers questioned the level of administrative salaries, specifically that of the superintendent, and urged the district to spend more on teacher pay. But the meeting began with Shalhoub reading a statement signed by all five board members that expressed “the utmost confidence” in Schumacher.

Stephen H. Provost: 805-927-8896, @sproauthor

A time-lapse video captures the tide rolling in and out at the Estero Bluffs near Cayucos.

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