By Raiza Giorgi

As the tiny Vista de las Cruces School in Gaviota faces a funding crisis, a group of parents and the Vista Del Mar Foundation will host a fundraiser at the school from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 2.

“We just had to pink-slip half of our staff, and there has to be a hard look at where we want the future of the school to go,” said Dr. Emilio Handall, superintendent and principal of the school, at a recent school board meeting.

The “Amigos de Vista” event will showcase a slideshow by Sally Isaacson depicting ranch life over the past 40 years, a performance by local country singer Dylan Ortega, and a silent auction.

The school’s tax revenue plunged when a leaking transmission pipeline halted South Coast oil production in May 2015. The school relied for more than half its budget of roughly $1.2 million on revenues generated by the companies that were affected by the spill, according to the district.

The K-8 school just north of the Gaviota Tunnel is funded by local property tax revenue, also known as “basic aid.”

Since the oil spill, the one-school Vista del Mar district has eliminated most of its extracurricular activities, its preschool program and a few bus services while combining a few grade levels and eliminating several teaching and classified positions.

Compounding the problem is a drop in enrollment since the state Legislature changed “district of choice” rules.

More than one-third of Vista de las Cruces students lived outside the district. In the past year, enrollment has dropped nearly 40 percent, from more than 130 students to fewer than 80. Handall is warning that the district could soon be labeled fiscally insolvent, leaving its fate in the hands of county and state officials.

The school recently received a $10,000 donation from Exxon Mobil, and organizers of the fundraiser hope the event will secure even more funding.

For more information on the event, log onto Facebook and search Amigos de Vista, or log onto to purchase tickets at $50 per person, which includes hors d’oeuvres and drinks.