Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and a small cadre of individuals interested in the possibility of a new high-tech high school campus and library in Hollister went on a road trip Dec. 15 to visit California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) College of Business to see what such a facility might look like in Hollister.

BenitoLink was given the opportunity to ride along and interviewed Velazquez, as they drove from Hollister to the college campus.

“Today we’re visiting the business center at CSUMB, and the dean of the business school is going to show us what they’ve been doing,” he said. “The building we’re going to see is an example of what we can do in our community. And we’ll also discuss how we can partner with CSUMB so we can have that track from here straight to university.”

Velazquez said the trip was a “first look” at what could be possible in Hollister, a facility he hopes will be built where the old jail and sheriff’s offices are located across the street from the new courthouse on Fourth Street.

“We’re not talking about a small building,” he said. “We’re talking about a real building with enough classrooms to house anywhere from 500 to 800 students at a time.”

Velazquez said he got the idea to travel to the nearby university after Dr. Shyam Kamath, Ph.D., who was his professor when he was studying for his master’s degree, contacted him after becoming the dean of the college of business.

“He invited me to the ribbon cutting,” Velazquez said. “I did my undergraduate work there and know the campus very well. They’ve built a new library, a business center, and a technology center. When I saw them, I thought there’s an opportunity to see how to build a new high school, college campus, and library.”

Rather than build a new high school campus, which the mayor said could cost anywhere from $120 million to $130 million, or a Gavilan College campus that might cost even more, he envisions a single structure, ranging from 60,000 to 80,000 square feet that would cost much less if split between the city, county, high school district and Gavilan.

 “As far as classrooms, the vision is for high school and college, but with the addition of the library we would have homework rooms for younger kids to come and get the help they need. That’s how this whole concept got started,” Velazquez said. “How do we find a location to bring our kids in after school and find volunteers to help them learn how to read at an early age rather than to fail and start falling behind? This is going to be that center to give them that boost.”

Now that the city and county are more focused on a tech center, Velazquez said, it could be possible to have 400 to 500 high school junior and senior students spending most of the their day at the new campus within three years.

“This will be a second high school, but geared more towards technology,” he said. “Some cities have high schools for the arts. We’re going to start the conversation with ‘let’s have the second high school be about technology.’ This will get them on track into Silicon Valley.”

Velazquez said he has been thinking about the concept for years and through conversations with the Intergovernmental Committee it has grown.

“We’re lucky that we have good partners that want to see something happen,” he said. “This is a chance for the community to finally get together and say we want our college campus here. We want a second high school here. We want a new library and a place for kids to go after school to learn. This is the work of several years from the Intergovernmental Committee talking about collaboration.

“The first step has been taken. The county and the city are having these conversations. Now we’re working with the school districts and trying to pull them into the conversation. When we talk about the library the conversation’s been how do we find more funding for the library? The question was what are we trying to turn this into? What’s our vision for the library? Are we just building a bigger building? Are we building one that operates with more technology? What are we trying to accomplish and how are we going to pay for it? Not only for the construction costs, but ongoing costs. Those questions are never answered.”

Rather than just throwing money at something, there needs to be more collaborative thinking, the mayor noted.

He said: “If this were to work, you’d have Gavilan College, the high school, the city and county all pitching in for the library. There’s a big savings and a big reward for the entire community. And more importantly, the track that leads to college from the same building. So you can literally go from elementary school to university from the same building.”

Local tax dollars are continuing to flow only in one direction to Gavilan College, Velazquez said, adding that the college will have to put money back into the community.

“We should not accept anything else,” he said. “Our residents are paying for it right now. That’s our community paying our share for Gavilan to build a new campus here. The community should not have to come up with more.

“Eighty percent to 90 percent of this money exists now, but it’s just not being focused on use for our community. We hope that the elected officials would make those decisions to get this thing done so the community will get the benefit of the money they already put in every year.”

At CSUMB, the group (Velazquez, Hollister City Manager Bill Avera, Brett Miller, Director of Administration Services, County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto, city Administration Analyst Cheryl Mullen, Hollister School District Trustee Peter Hernandez, Jr., administrative intern Michael Orzan) was greeted by Kamath, who showed them through the gleaming glass structure that held the School of Computing Design and School of Business, and the library next door.

Kamath said the building containing the two schools cost $43 million and the library $70 million, with a combined square footage of 161,000 square feet.

As he guided the group through the first building, he described it as a totally integrated space where the “computing and design folks could get together with the college of business folks because you’ve got to be smart in both areas in order to be a good manager.”

“One of the unique things about this building is it has 12 labs and only eight classrooms,” Kamath said. “The labs go from design thinking and entrepreneurship, to web design to networking and cyber security to business analytics and accounting.”

The unique design accommodates the “flipped classroom” concept, Kamath said..

“This is where you do your homework in class and you do the lectures at home,” he said. “The professors upload their lectures to the net. The students watch them at home. Then when they come to class the professor helps them solve the problems. The way this building is designed we’re able to do that seamlessly.”

Some of the technical innovations include smart whiteboards, walls and windows designed to be written on, individual chairs where students can store their books beneath the seat and have rollers so they can easily move around to form study groups.

He said the entire structure was designed as a “smart building.”

“It has sensors on top which control the building,” he said. “If you’re sitting in a class and suddenly all the shades mysteriously rise and the windows open it’s keeping the building at a set temperature. Radiant heat comes out of the concrete floors. It shares the cooling system with the library. The restroom have showers because the kids ride bikes to class and hopefully they use the showers.”

The master plan will turn the CSUMB campus into a pedestrian- and bike-friendly habitat and that by 2025, or sooner, it will become a completely walkable area and cars will be delegated to the outskirts.

When the discussion came to funding, Kamath said an important source comes from wealthy donors.

“One husband and wife who live in Pebble Beach donated $10 million to have their name on the building,” he said. “People will donate thousands to have their names on a room.”

Upon entering the equally dazzling library, a familiar farming family name emblazoned the entryway: Tanimura & Antle. According to Dr. Kamath, the two families donated $4 million toward for the honor.

John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...