The future of OA’s facilities


Two soccer goals are found on an Orcutt Academy field with a football goal post behind.

As a converted elementary campus, Orcutt Academy is very unique. This uniqueness causes many people to wonder what’s next for the school’s facilities. From campus improvements to sports facilities, we asked students what they would like to see for the future of OA’s campus and also dive into the plans the district has for the school.

In order to find out what changes the students wanted, a survey via Google Forms was taken, and a few interviews with the student body were conducted as well. When asked what changes the students would like to see at OA, twenty-eight students out of 60 (one being a personal interview, twenty-seven being people who took the same Google Forms survey) said they’d like the school district to add new facilities to the current location of Orcutt Academy. One student said the district and students should raise funds in order to, “build a gym, take out the playground, and put the gym [behind the library]”.

The student went on to display the need to improve the bathrooms on campus, mentioning how school administrators should prioritize “putting in new mirrors” since there is only one functioning mirror in all restrooms.

Twenty-seven students (two being personally interviewed and the rest of the results coming from the online survey) preferred to ditch the current location of Orcutt Academy and make the switch to a larger campus. One of the interviewees said “there’s not much room for us to improve the campus anyway.” The anonymous student explained how there would be more opportunities to improve OA while on a larger campus while still maintaining small classroom sizes yet also offering potential sports facilities and a wider variety of classes.

When asked which item students would prefer to have on a campus, getting a new football stadium won by a landslide, with over three times as many votes as the second most voted item – a basketball/volleyball court. Two sophomores on the football team explained how OA could have a multifaceted football field. “It could be used for football, soccer, and track like the one at Santa Maria High School.” The same argument can be used for obtaining a new basketball/volleyball court too; it can be used for basketball, volleyball, dances, pep rallies, and a place for students to take SAT’s and PSAT’s.

“While both sporting facilities would be desirable, it is noted that most of the money funding Orcutt Academy athletics comes from ticket sales made at our sporting events.”

This being said, it would be nearly impossible to gain necessary funds to even begin thinking about putting in a new sports facility on or off-campus.

Only one vote behind obtaining a new basketball/volleyball court was improvements being made to the bathrooms at OA. Students who desire this should be happy to hear what Dr. Deborah Blow, superintendent of OUSD, told students who gave a presentation from SLED (Students Leading Education) on how school campuses could improve. She stated that the district was in the process of upgrading the toilets in the bathrooms to a more comfortable height for high schoolers.

When asked what students wanted to see in the campus in OA in ten years, the majority explained a desire for more facilities, as well as larger ones than what we have now.

Lastly, when asked what strengths the current facilities OA has, many students said they liked how easy it is to navigate a small school, the fact that it’s also an outdoor campus, the energetic spartan mascot, and most notably, the academics. Although most of what was said was positive, it is striking that over a quarter of the respondents remarked something negative from answering the question with, “no”, “literally nothing”, “the facilities are awful”, to “nope”.

Overall, OA’s current campus is not what the majority of students desire, due mainly to the lack of facilities. Unfortunately, administration from the district does not plan to drastically add-on to our school, according to the head of Charter Schools for Orcutt Union School District, Mr. Joe Dana.

When talking with Dana, some light on the district’s plans for Orcutt Academy was shed.

“The first thing the district will focus on is school security” Dana says. The plan is to fence off each school in the district, including OA, and to have a single-entry and exit point during the day. Dana says this is the number one priority of the district for campus improvements. He admits that there is no set date for the improvements to commence, but it should happen sometime after they finish up elementary school improvements this summer.

Students who are clamoring for better restrooms may just get their wish, as Dana states that one of the biggest items the district knows needs to be addressed are the restrooms. Dana states that the restrooms are still more appropriate for elementary school than they are for high school students. Dana again asserts that there is no set timeline for these improvements to begin, but he does state that the restrooms are one of the items the district desires to upgrade.

When addressing the possibility of moving campuses, Dana states that, “students are allowed to dream,” but unless there is a large donation of property to the district, he does not see any way to get the funding for a move.

For all the students who wanted a fully-functioning football stadium, similar to other high schools in our area, Dana thinks they may have to keep dreaming. Dana says that there is a large list of items the district desires to improve on the OA campus, but funding is limited and the district’s priorities lie on other campus upgrades at this time. “We’d love to do a lot of things on (OA’s) campus,” Dana says, “but there is a process for all of these things. At this time, we just don’t know quite yet.”

Dana remarks that the district’s priorities are on campus security and classroom upgrades.

In the end, Dana believes it comes down to a different plan for OA than for other high schools. He says that the school board realizes “one of the reasons Orcutt Academy is successful as a school is because of its smallness, and [that] being small has its challenges with facilities and with programming, but being small is also [OA’s] greatest strength.”

“being small is also [OA’s] greatest strength.”

–  Joe Dana, head of Charter Schools for Orcutt Union School District

Dana also strongly believes the “sense of family and community at Orcutt Academy High School [is what’s] special [about it]”.

So for those who are wondering what OA might look like in the future, the answer might just be: pretty much the same. Orcutt Academy will most certainly receive improvements along the course of it’s early history, and it certainly will evolve as well. In the end however, OA is a small school and takes pride in just that, and many people, including Mr. Dana, do not see that changing anytime soon.