The Santa Barbara School Board on Tuesday night denied the request of La Cuesta Continuation High School to begin consolidating its four scattered cross-town campuses into one location – but the denial could be temporary.

The school, which serves 150 at-risk students who have fallen behind on credits, is angling to move into a vacant district-owned building downtown at 215 E. Ortega St.

But the cash-strapped school board, still reeling from last month’s budget cuts to the tune of $4.1 million, wants to hear more information about the possibility of renting out the 17,000-square-foot building to commercial interests. Officials learned Tuesday night that doing so could generate $300,000 to $400,000 annually – less than an earlier estimate of $500,000.

In a 3-2 decision, the board opted against initiating the move, with Nancy Harter and Laura Malakoff casting the minority yes votes. However, at least one trustee – Annette Cordero – said she probably will vote for the proposal when it comes back to the board later this spring. But she felt Tuesday was too early to give La Cuesta the nod, citing a desire to hear more information.

The vacant Ortega Street building formerly belonged to the K-6 Community Academy, which has moved to La Cumbre Junior High School on Modoc Road.

The board is also considering the possibility of moving school district headquarters at 720 Santa Barbara St. – next door to the Ortega Street building – to empty classrooms at Santa Barbara Junior High on East Cota Street.

If that happens, the board would be able to lease that property as well. Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith estimated that it could yield an additional $624,000. The hitch, however, is that the entire headquarters probably wouldn’t fit into the space available at Santa Barbara Junior High.

La Cuesta has four campuses, each near the main campuses of other traditional schools: Santa Barbara High, San Marcos High, Dos Pueblos High and La Colina Junior High. (The campus at La Colina is known as Las Alturas Continuation High.)

The proposed plan is to consolidate the school in three phases, starting in the fall. The first year would involve merging the continuation campuses housed at Santa Barbara High and La Colina Junior High, which are six miles apart. Other students would come in the next two years. The students at Dos Pueblos in Goleta would stay put, because it is so far away.

La Cuesta generally doesn’t serve students who have been expelled – that charge belongs more to El Puente School on Gutierrez Street dowtown.

Rather, students at La Cuesta tend to have truancy problems. Typically, they are behind on credits, and La Cuesta allows the hardworking pupils to catch up by completing more credits in a shorter span of time.

Rob Kuznia, Noozhawk Staff Writer

— Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at