Is there enough room on 50 acres for the Arroyo Toad and a high school?

Julie Reeder

There has been constant controversy over the new Bonsall High School lately, before and after the election, and while it’s inconvenient, I believe it’s healthy for the community. There are obvious issues and concerns for neighbors as it relates to traffic, noise, space, etc. It’s too bad that it has to cost taxpayers money to move forward or defend the project.

However, if our community is going to be a reflection of the citizens, and we’re going to be good neighbors, it’s good that we have legal ways to work through the differences, whether it’s with the first amendment in the newspaper, signs in protest, or in court. That’s one of the great things about our country. Before everything is said and done and built, we have the opportunity to affect change.

Many of the controversies, such as the lease/leaseback situation and the need to have proper reports for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have or are being worked through, and the newest question being raised by the California Taxpayers Action Network, relates to whether there’s still enough acreage to put a school after 16 acres are subtracted from the 50 acres because of the presence of the Arroyo Toad.

In response to the question, Village News’ Joe Naiman calculated the space needs of a high school and has determined that even if 16 acres of the Bonsall High School site are unavailable due to habitat constraints there would still be enough room for a high school on the 50-acre site the district currently owns.

Get ready, here are some specifics.

An acre is 43,560 square feet which would equate to 208 feet 8 inches by 208 feet 8 inches. The calculations utilized a measurement of 200 feet by 200 feet not only to simplify but also to take into account walkway and wall width as well as the buildings or fields themselves.

The calculations assume that Bonsall High School will not have an on-campus swimming pool. Only 21 public high schools in San Diego County and only seven in North County have on-campus pools, so the lack of an on-campus pool will not preclude Bonsall High School
aquatics programs in the future.

Even if Bonsall High School has a football team (it currently doesn’t plan to field one) in the future, bleachers – rather than permanent stands such as those at Fallbrook High School – would likely be the case, and thus four acres were allowed for a field which would be used for soccer, track and field, field hockey, lacrosse, and rugby should Bonsall High School athletics expand to all of those sports.

A football field is 100 yards between goal lines and each end zone is 10 yards, so 400 feet would allow 20 feet on each side past the back of the end zone and 400 feet of width would also allow for sidelines and stands as well as storage structures, restrooms, and snack bars past the stands.

The baseball field dimensions from home plate to the right field and left field fences tend to be between 300 and 330 feet, so 400 feet each way or a total of four acres would allow for backstop, bench, and seating areas as well as for storage, restrooms, and a snack bar.  A softball field tends to be smaller, so the allowance was 2 1/2 acres.

A standard high school basketball court is 84 feet between baskets and 50 feet wide. A gymnasium 150 feet in length would allow for space between the baskets and the gymnasium walls as well as for a foyer in front. (A volleyball court is 18 meters by 9 meters, which is less than 60 feet by 30 feet, so if Bonsall High School hosts a tournament three courts could hold matches concurrently.)

Allowing 200 feet for width would accommodate stands, a weight room, wrestling and gymnastics practice rooms, boys and girls locker rooms, a laundry room, coaches’ offices, and storage.  Those dimensions consume 3/4 of an acre.

The length of a tennis court is 78 feet and the width for doubles matches is 36 feet, so a court size of 100 feet by 50 feet would accommodate space between the court and the fence including benches. Two acres would allow 15 tennis courts along with 5,000 square feet for storage, restrooms, and a registration area including a snack bar should the high school ever host tournaments.

The calculations allowed four acres for physical education class and athletic practice fields, including a groundskeeping storage structure, and half an acre for racquetball/handball courts. That brings the total athletic area to 17 3/4 acres.

An allowance of one acre for an auditorium includes the lobby, a storage area, and dressing rooms. Half an acre, or 200 feet by 100 feet, would likely suffice for a band room and an instrument storage area. A high school library including the office area could likely be fitted in 200 feet by 200 feet, or one acre.

The room or rooms for the yearbook and student newspaper (one of our favorites!), including storage areas for past issues, account for half an acre. The subtotal is now 20 3/4 acres.

Half an acre, or 200 feet by 100 feet, is allowed for the cafeteria including the kitchen and the administrative office. The quad where students would eat lunch outside accounts for one acre. This brings the subtotal to 22 1/4 acres.

The subtotal becomes 26 1/4 acres with the inclusion of four acres for student and staff parking and bus loading and unloading.

The auto shop including storage of cars would account for half an acre.  The metal shop and wood shop would each be 50 feet by 100 feet, or one-quarter of an acre each. That creates a subtotal of 27 1/4 acres.

If the rest of the classrooms are 20 feet by 40 feet with partitions allowing for double classrooms, 100 classrooms, including one for a student store and one dedicated to computer use, would encompass two acres and the total would be less if any buildings are two stories. That produces a subtotal of 29 1/4 acres.

If restrooms measure 20 feet by 30 feet no more than 1/3 of an acre would be needed for 20 restrooms. Two storage areas of 40 feet by 30 feet for janitorial, groundskeeping, and other maintenance use would consume just under two-thirds of an acre. The administration offices, including a teachers’ lounge, would require no more than one acre.

This creates a total of 31 1/4 acres, so a school without a swimming pool could be constructed using only 33 acres.

Well, I’m sure this is way more detail than anyone expected in an answer to this question, but I believe it does shed some light on the issue.

10 Responses to "Is there enough room on 50 acres for the Arroyo Toad and a high school?"

  1. Bert Barth   February 26, 2017 at 7:19 am

    1. Signs in protest, or merely assembling to protest, are now being reconsidered in 18 states; punishing or prohibiting them is the aim but it has not yet been tested in court.
    2, Environmental protection requirements are now being rescinded wholesale at the federal level but not at the state level in California.
    Draw your own conclusions. If you understand interdependence of species then you have a stake in the outcome of the current struggle over whether protest assemblies are safe, and over federal versus state concepts of responsibility to protect the environment and biodiversity from the forces of development.

  2. D   February 27, 2017 at 11:24 am


  3. Yay for BHS   February 27, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks for the detail even assuming that environmental mitigation is required (so far, the toad is just a rumor) that a full service high school can be built at gird/76.

  4. CATE   March 3, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Thank you for analyzing the Gird Road school site issue. There are many valid and compelling reasons not to build a high school in the middle of Gird Valley residential areas when other, better sites exist. But to be accurate some important facts need to be corrected. According to published preliminary studies funded by the BUSD, there are only 24 usable Gird acres, not the 34 (50 minus 16) that Julie Reeder quotes. And this number could further shrink based on environmental and biological studies now being conducted. CA State Code guidelines state that 24 acres can support up to 600 students, not the 1200-1500 students that the Bonsall Superintendent says they are planning for. (See Table 6 at Why would the BUSD want to build on Gird knowing that it could be deficient within the next 10 to 20 years? Would they then demand MORE money for a second HS?

    History shows that a legal majority of the BUSD community does not support a HS on Gird. Besides the failure of the DD bond, in past years there have been four previous bond failures for building on the Gird site (according to the L.A. Times). Will they try again in 2018 using taxpayer money to put a bond on the ballot?

    One much better opportunity is the Ocean Breeze (OB) property, which surrounds the current Sullivan Middle School and Bonsall High School and is well suited for a high school campus. It is also expandable as needs arise. This would produce a significant economy of scale wherein facilities like sports fields, admin offices, support staff, etc. would be shared. This is why large consolidated campuses are being built today. Small HS’s are extremely expensive to operate on a per student basis and State funds are decreasing. And one great thing about the OB property is that it is being offered at a very reasonable price and would be paid down with FUTURE developer fees, no cash needed—now or ever. And Gird could be sold to finance construction–a win, win for all sides.

    Remember, once built, a school campus is basically “forever “and to plan for only one or two decades ahead is short sighted. (Besides, placing it in an area where it is not wanted makes bond drives very difficult.) Maybe the BUSD Admin has dreams of two high schools, which would be ultra expensive to build and operate. If that is a long range plan, they need to review the voting history of Fallbrook and Bonsall residents.

    This VN story ends by saying it has “shed some light on this issue.” In fact it has provided a totally mistaken impression that there is room for a 1200 to 1500 student HS, a number again reinforced at a BUSD public workshop on March 2, 2017.

    But one thing is true. As Ms. Reeder states, “our community is going to be a reflection of the citizens…” Bonsall citizens have made their choice about a Gird Rd. school by saying NO to the many past school bonds. It’s time that the BUSD understood that message. For a comprehensive review of the Gird school site subject, please visit

  5. Julie Reeder   March 5, 2017 at 5:40 am

    I could be wrong, but I don’t believe we’ll know the usable acres until the studies are finished and it is determined. I don’t think we can say for sure right now that it is 24 acres, 35 acres, or 50 acres.

  6. CATE   March 5, 2017 at 10:17 am

    You are correct, the usable land is not precisely known, but about 24 acres is very likely, based on past studies. So given these facts, why print a story that is, by your own admission, likely not true? We hope the VN will fairly report both sides of this important community issue. Please allow us to respond to questionable statements from the BUSD administration.

    • Julie Reeder   March 5, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Absolutely we will report the issue fairly. That is our top priority. We are not invested or have an interest in either side. Our only job is to report what is happening with the issue. As we continue to cover this, it’s important to differentiate between a story though and an editorial. What we printed was not a story, but an editorial. There wasn’t anything untrue, because we don’t know the space that will be allotted yet, or how much land the toad will get, as opposed to the students, but Joe’s figures were just his own opinion and calculations based on the amount of space needed for each classroom, etc. It wasn’t anything more. We’ll know more as the studies proceed and/or any special considerations are given for the design and space. Or, if indeed your group is successful in moving the school to another site. In any case, we will be happy to communicate what is happening and how people are reacting to it. THank you for the conversation, we appreciate you as a reader and your involvement in the community.

  7. CATE   March 6, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    CATE fully understands your story was an opinion, but written newspaper opinions (in our view) need to be based on verifiable facts, Unfortunately, your readers were left with the impression that a HS as you describe it can fit on Gird. That has yet to be proven and according to current studies is false.

    CATE welcomes your communication at any time. Again, please see for BUSD studies, reports, contact information, news and opinions. CATE thanks you for your consideration of these comments.

    • Julie Reeder   March 9, 2017 at 6:36 am

      It is our understanding that the California Environmental Quality Act process includes a draft Mitigated Negative Declaration of Environmental Impact Report which is subject to a public review and comment period. The lead agency will respond to all public comments, and those will be incorporated into the final statement. A claim of constraints does not equate to a finding of constraints in the final report. In this case the claim of constraints does not equate to a final finding of constraints in the study. We believe they are state guidelines rather than requirements. As for Joe’s calculations, they were based on 33 acres being available, which is what we were originally told by Gird Road site opponents when the environmental constraint issue was first raised.

  8.   April 3, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    In 2010, Fallbrook Union High School District “determined that [the Gird Road] site is not suitable for construction as a school site for
    three reasons: the current costs to modify the topography of the land, environmental impact
    mitigation, and proximity to the Sycamore Ranch development.” In 2016, BUSD’s Biological Resources Assessment for Bonsall High School and Performing Art Center detailed its plans for the Gird Road site: “development of the project will impact approximately 24.6 of the 48-acre site” with 19.8 acres used for recreational fields, 150,000 sq. ft. of buildings, 200,000 sq. ft. of parking, along with night time lighting.
    For 1,500 students, CDE guidelines, require 20.4 acres just for PE; 38.7 total acres without Classroom Size Reduction (CSR).
    The Gird Road site, 48 hilly acres, includes three tributaries to the San Luis Rey River Valley and 16.4 acres federally-designated critical habitat for the endangered arroyo toad. No, the site does not appear to offer the 38.7 acres required for a high school.


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