Ruth Minturn-Kim, a Lake Forest resident, sent Lake Forest Patch the following letter to the editor:
Many families in the City of Lake Forest and the El Toro High School community strongly support the El Toro Lighting and Bleacher Improvement Project proposed for the El Toro High School campus.The proposed improvements will benefit the student body and entire community and will remedy El Toro’s persistent disadvantage of inadequate athletics facilities.
Our school district originally provided for the high schools to share homegame and practice facilities, as is the case in neighboring districts of Irvine and Orange, where a single shared stadium serves all schools fairly, but in reality, this no longer exists in the Saddleback district.
Mission Viejo, Trabuco Hills and Laguna Hills all have their own, on-site stadiums. El Toro’s agreement of shared facilities with Trabuco Hills has become contentious, expensive and logistically impractical. Instead of sharing, Trabuco Hill’s begrudgingly allows us to use their stadium on a limited basis.
The lack of adequate athletic fields at El Toro represents an ongoing opportunity cost for all programs using these facilities, calculated by the loss of ticket sales, concessions, community sponsorships, competition, and tournament fees. I speak from the point of view of a marching band parent volunteer always looking for ways to raise funds.
For example, Mission Viejo and Trabuco Hills both have large marching bands and color guards that have maintained their size and dominance over time. Each of these schools host an annual band competition at their home stadiums, bringing in thousands of dollars used to support their music programs. Laguna Hills High School will be hosting their first marching band competition this fall in their own on-site stadium built by the district a few years ago. El Toro’s marching band is unable to host a similar competition due to our lack of facilities, and thus loses out on a lucrative fundraising event.
Besides individual program opportunity costs, El Toro and the City of Lake Forest will suffer long term negative impacts due to our lack of adequate facilities. The quality of local schools is a key factor in attracting developers, businesses and families to our city and in maintaining the real estate values of ALL of our homes. Excellent schools equal high property values.
I am the parent of a current El Toro student and a 2011 graduate who now attends Yale University. Academics are very important to me, however, they are not the only thing that defines an outstanding high school. In order for our students to be competitive in college admissions they must have access to thriving programs supported by adequate facilities, including athletics.
The School Choice option, within the district, impacts the quality of students and families that El Toro is able to attract and retain. Families deciding where to send their students compare school academics, athletics and facilities, and many of my neighbors are beginning to choose other high schools. We are losing active families who volunteer time and contribute resources to the other high schools and cities, leading to the inevitable decline of El Toro.
The ongoing success of El Toro depends on the improvement of the lighting and bleachers at our athletics field and I urge the Saddleback Valley Unified School District and the City of Lake Forest to support it in order to provide equal access to adequate facilities for current students and the overall community.