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new site for Stone Bridge School

This property at 5266 Old Sonoma Road, just north of the Carneros Resort, will be the new home of Stone Bridge School.

Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle

For the second time this month, the Napa Valley Unified School District has reached an agreement to buy land for the purpose of moving a school sitting atop an earthquake fault.

Last week, the school board approved the purchase of 7.6 acres just off Old Sonoma Road for $1.8 million that will serve as the new campus for Stone Bridge School.

The seller was identified in a school board resolution and district purchasing agreement as 5266 OSR LLC. No other information on the seller was publicly available, according to Assistant Superintendent Wade Roach.

The new site will be located at 5266 Old Sonoma Rd., just north of the Carneros Resort and Spa.

Earlier this month, the Board of Trustees authorized the expenditure of $10.2 million to buy a 15-acre parcel in American Canyon to build a new campus for Napa Junction Elementary School.

The two land acquisitions will use funds from Measure H, the $269 million school bond approved by voters in June 2016.

Both Napa Junction and Stone Bridge have earthquake faults running beneath them, a fact that was discovered following the August 2014 earthquake.

The risk of seismic activity under Stone Bridge is compounded by the fact that it also has a PG&E natural gas transmission line running under it.

The combination of a fault and gas line prompted the school board in November 2016 to direct NVUSD to find a new home for Stone Bridge, a Waldorf-style charter school of about 250 students in grades K-8.

“We’re very pleased” with the land purchase, said District spokesperson Elizabeth Emmett on Tuesday. “We made the commitment to take care of the health and safety issues” stemming from seismic concerns, and “we’re happy to be moving forward.”

Emmett said the district intends to have the new Stone Bridge location open by August 2020.

No current estimate for building the new campus was available, she added. The district’s Office of Planning and Construction is working on designs, as well as updating the NVUSD Facilities Master Plan, adopted two years ago.

The Facilities Master Plan included spending $14.2 million on Stone Bridge construction. That estimate was based on a previous plan to keep the school at its current site, but shift it away from the 26-inch gas line that sits underground only 15 feet from the nearest building.

Emmett said the estimate in the Facilities Master Plan is expected to change once construction officials finalize the layout of the new campus off Old Sonoma Road.

Once Stone Bridge is moved, the district may form a 7-11 Committee comprised of local residents to help decide what to do with the current 10-acre property located off Carneros Avenue.

“If the committee recommends selling it, we could use those proceeds to help pay” for the new school, said Emmett.

A 200-foot segment of the transmission line running under the Carneros campus was replaced by PG&E after the 2014 earthquake. Utility officials said at the time that the pipeline did not break from that seismic event, and that the work was merely precautionary.

Despite the gasline replacement work and assurances from PG&E and consultants hired by NVUSD that it was safe to rebuild Stone Bridge on its campus, numerous trustees couldn’t support investing millions of dollars in such an effort, or risk an explosion at the school.

Once the decision was made to move Stone Bridge, the district looked for another rural location because the school has a 1-acre farm that students use. Also, the school has received grants that were contingent on it being in a non-urban setting.

“We’re very excited and appreciative of the district” for finding us another rural site, said Principal Maria Martinez. “Farming is a big part of our program.”

Martinez said the architect who will design the new campus will spend a day at Stone Bridge to meet faculty, students and parents, and to get a clear sense of the charter’s school programs and needs.

Although the current site is nearly 10 acres in size, the school has made do with only 7 acres because about 2 acres were used for a septic field. So in moving to the new location of 7.6 acres, Stone Bridge will still have about the same amount of space to work with, according to Martinez.

Stone Bridge has already had three campuses in 20 years of operation. The charter school began at Napa Valley Expo, first in tents and then inside one of its exhibit halls.

Before settling at its Carneros site in 2010, Stone Bridge was at Salvador Elementary School, where it shared that campus with a K-6 program.

In September 2016, NVUSD suggested moving Stone Bridge to Yountville Elementary School to share that campus with the existing school that has suffered declining enrollment.

But parents from both Stone Bridge and Yountville objected to this plan, which also didn’t sit well with the school board.