Enos Ranchos school site

The old Enos House is seen near an area, off South College Drive near Battles Road, which has been identified as a potential site for a new school. The site is near homes slated to be constructed as part of the Enos Ranchos project in Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria-Bonita School District is negotiating with developers of the Enos Ranchos project over the possibility of acquiring land for a new elementary school. 

During the Jan. 11 board meeting, the board of trustees received a report from Tetra Tech, a construction consulting firm, which completed an environmental assessment of the site and surrounding area. 

The site is located near South College Drive and Battles Road, next to residential and auto park components of the Enos Ranch development. 

“This assessment is a standard procedure for any school district looking to buy a site for a school,” said Maggie White, district public information officer. “The bottom line was that there were no risks to humans.”

Tetra Tech researched records, databases, historical photo maps and site reconnaissance. They determined the site is located in the Santa Maria Oil Field and that the land previously had been used for oil and agricultural row crop production from the 1930s through 2015.

After assessing the environmental site for soil gas, chemicals due to agricultural and oil production and the potential of danger due to four hazardous pipelines within 1,500 feet of the site, Tetra Tech found there was no risk to potential students.

“The human health and ecological screening evaluations indicate that the compounds present at the site do not represent a meaningful risk to potential human or ecological receptors,” said the report, which was prepared and presented by James R. Steele.

White noted that the outcome of the assessment “means the state would allow us to purchase this when we get to a successful part of negotiation."

“The state is very clear,” White said. “We have to make sure the area at the site is safe for kids.”

To date, negotiations have not been finalized nor has a decision been made about the possible school site.

Still, the need for a new school exists, according to officials. 

With the population of Santa Maria continuing to evolve and grow, as well as the new residential area expected to go in at the development, district officials said it is inevitable a new school will be needed.

When asked about the potential school site being juxtaposed with residential housing and commercial facilities, White noted that almost all of the schools “are in the middle of everything, with the way Santa Maria is laid out.”

“There’s not a lot of viable property,” White said. “There will be more housing here, and we don’t have a lot of schools in the southeast area of Santa Maria. This area has been zoned for public use in city plans for a while.”

The funds for the new school site will come from $45 million bond Measure T, which was approved by voters in 2014. The construction of the new school will use around $25 million of that bond, while the other $20 million has already been being used for upgrades to existing schools, according to White. 

Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat.