Gavilan President Dr. Kathleen Rose speaks at the May 10 San Benito County Business Council meeting at San Juan Oaks. Photo by Nicholas Preciado.

The president of Gavilan College gave an update on a potential $248 million general obligation school bond and how money would be spent locally at a recent San Benito County Business Council meeting. Although some instruction could be added with the bond, an additional bond would be needed to complete the campus at Fairview Corners. 

On May 10, Gavilan Superintendent and President Dr. Kathleen Rose spoke of future efforts to bring higher education to San Benito County beyond what is already offered for credit at the Briggs Building in downtown Hollister and noncredit throughout the community.

“During my first two years as president, I’ve really sought to understand the major issues and have offered opportunities for the community to share viewpoints and concerns, to come forward and talk with me about places where we need to grow, and ideas for changes as we look at the next 20 years for the Gavilan Joint Community College District,” Rose said.

The Gavilan College Board of Trustees will decide in July whether or not to place a $248 million general obligation bond on the November election ballot. The bond would help fund construction of a San Benito County campus, as well as other projects at all Gavilan locations including repairing/replacing leaky roofs, rusty plumbing, and faulty electrical systems, upgrading/adding classrooms for labs and career technical training, improving access for students with disabilities, improving student safety and campus security systems, and renovating the college library in Gilroy to meet modern standards for technology and research.

A recent survey of 600 households in the Gavilan Joint Community College District, which encompasses San Benito County and parts of Santa Clara County including Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and Coyote, found that 68 percent of survey respondents would support a bond measure in November.

“At the core of this decision is really our students,” Rose said. “Over the last two years continually, our student leadership has become extremely vocal. They should be, we want them to be. Throughout our district, student leaders are the core of what we do. They drive our instructional program and they drive what we’re doing here in San Benito County, particularly in Hollister because what we learned in our educational master plan and facilities master plan is here is where the road goes, here in this community.”

She continued.

“We know that 1,300 students travel on [Highway 25] from Hollister to Gilroy weekly for the 500 or so sections they are a part of on our Gilroy campus. We know that if they stay here and if we built a facility here, that it would not decimate what we are doing in Gilroy. We would have enough content here in Hollister to be able to support a brick and mortar structure here. That’s a big finding for us. We now know that can be substantiated with our master plan.”

She said any future Gavilan College facility in San Benito County would be built at Fairview Corners.

Over a decade ago, Gavilan College purchased an 80-acre plot of land near Ridgemark Golf Club and Resort for $8 million in partnership with Morgan Hill-based developer Dividend Homes. The purchase was made with funds from Measure E, a $108 million school bond measure approved by voters in 2004. To date, no construction has taken place.

According to Rose,it would cost approximately $53 million for Phase 1 construction at Fairview Corners.

“I did a hard swallow when I heard that,” Rose said.

Phase 1 would include constructing a maintenance and operations building, adding portables for additional classrooms for labs and career technical education content, developing open space parking nearby, and potentially establishing a retail site.

“Phase 1 would develop new facilities while maintaining campus life,” Rose said. “Does that mean we would still do things at Briggs? Oh yeah. Because again, our job is to provide instruction. We want to keep providing instruction, which by the way beyond what we do at Briggs for regular instruction, we have noncredit happening all throughout the community. We have 325 students who went through our San Benito County Jail program in 2016-2017.”

Any additional plans for Fairview Corners beyond Phase 1, construction would require more funding via another bond, Rose said.

“We will need a lot more money to do everything we want to do at all of our locations,” Rose said. “We’re not going to be able to do everything with this bond.”

When asked how soon construction could start at Fairview Corners, Rose said the college was close to “turning dirt.”

“We’ve been told that within a three-year window we should be able to build and hold content at Fairview based on where we are,” Rose said. “So say it goes forward, say the board approves [the bond], say it’s passed, and say we are funded in 2019 and we are able to move forward with the project aggressively. We hope to be able to offer content at Fairview Corners within a three-year window.”

The community college president informed the business council audience that every cent raised for the bond would be spent within the district, no money would go toward salaries, and a citizen oversight committee would be established to oversee how funds are spent.

“I wanted you to know formally that we have planned,” Rose said. “We have planned significantly and the college will continue to plan. Because if none of this occurs, if we do not go forward with a general obligation bond, the college will still do instruction. We will still continue to look at instructional programs and how we can expand them in San Benito County and in Hollister, but without being able to build structures to do so, we will be limited in what we can do here. It’s important that we begin to have open conversations about our future and to give you the information and evidence you need to be able to see where the college is growing and going in the next 30 years.”

Other BenitoLink articles on the potential school bond measure: