Children and Youth

San Benito High School board continues Measure U project prioritization

The board also votes to retire some classes

San Benito High School board members gathered to discuss project priorities using Measure U bond funds at the Feb. 28 meeting, including special education classrooms, athletic facilities and restrooms. They also voted to retire some courses that would not be part of new graduation pathways.

Approved by voters in November 2016, the $60 million bond is designated to help fund major improvements to San Benito High School, including upgrades to science classrooms and labs, repairs to old plumbing and outdated electrical systems, improvements to school access for students with disabilities, additional classrooms to address overcrowding and continued growth, and the removal of asbestos, lead paint and other hazardous materials throughout campus buildings.

Joe Vela from AEDIS Architects presented updates on projects the board prioritized at a special meeting in January. At the meeting, board trustees asked AEDIS to come back to talk specifically about projects including the potential location of a science building and its relationship to the center at campus, track and soccer practice field upgrades, new classrooms, and SPED (special education) expansion.

As reported in BenitoLink, the special meeting in January was moved from the school library to the auditorium to accommodate crowds. Because of the crowd size, trustees had to limit the speaking time for more than 20 students, teachers and community members who spoke during public comment.

During the special meeting, English teachers Patrick Schleeter and Dr. Tom Rooth said they would like to see the English Department staff lounge brought back after it was reassigned to the special education department.

“In talking with the administration staff the idea came up that we should look into providing a staff lounge somewhere north of Nash (Road),” Vela said in response to those concerns. “We were asked to take a look at the 250’s building to see if we can design a facility that met those needs.”

He said designers added multi-occupancy restrooms, a gender-neutral restroom, and a staff lounge. According to Vela, the estimated cost of the project is $686,000.

During public comment, Rooth suggested the board make a conscious decision about the prioritizing projects that could affect their timeline and cost the school district money in the long run. He said that by approving to move forward with the English Department lounge and the SPED expansion at the same time, the board would displace English classrooms during construction so he suggested building a new SPED classroom instead.

Vela and Interim District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said that due to the growing size of the SPED department, modernization needs to take place regardless. Vela added that the modernization could start as early as Summer 2017 if the board approves the project.

Tennenbaum and the board agreed that they would like to get direction from staff about the SPED expansion and lounge.

Vela was also asked to look into the cost of athletic fields and a proposed aquatic center.

The practice field would cost the district between $2.7 million and $2.9 million. The P.E. track/field and football field with a stadium consisting of home and visitor bleachers, a snack shack, team rooms, entry ticket booth, parking lot and restroom would cost an estimated $12.4 million to $14.2 million.

The P.E. pool replacement, consisting of a 50-meter competition pool, a large pool deck, a 25-yard warm-up pool, shade structures, pool house with lockers, showers and equipment room, would cost the district $12.7 million to $13.9 million.

While nothing in the renditions were set in stone Vela said, “We need need to talk with staff as well as everyone who needs to be involved and figure out what that needs to be based on the number of students that are using it, based on the activities, based on your swimmers that are not water-safe.”

Following Vela’s presentation of the proposed cost of the athletic fields and pool, Trustee John Corrigan said cost projections appeared high. “After taking the time to learn about pools, and turf and different things, when I look at the numbers presented, these numbers are very, very conservative, very much worst-case scenario and I don’t think we will spend anywhere near the amount that is being proposed … I think there are better deals,” he said.

Trustees William Tiffany and Juan Robledo questioned the size of the proposed parking lots as they typically overflow during football games.

Trustee Steve Delay said, “We’re never going to be able to put enough parking on that side. If we get 5,000 people for the football games, we’re not going to be able to park them. They’re just going to have to park where they can park and walk.”

After the discussion, trustees approved to move forward with all the projects with additional staff input on all projects and AEDIS will look at potential cost savings.

Measure G Projects

Construction on the CTE (Career Technical Education) building and VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) buildings are proceeding. Financed by Measure G funds approved by voters in June 2014, the $42.5 million bond aides in the construction, replacement and modernization of buildings on campus.

“CTE  is on schedule and is slated to finished in Summer of 2017,” said Vela.

The building will be ready for use by staff and students in the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester.

The VAPA building is scheduled to be finished in Winter of 2017 and will be ready for use by students in the Spring 2018 semester.

Career Technical Education Pathways

Trustees also voted to retire, remove, and amend courses that don’t lead students to higher education or jobs straight out of high school.

In a presentation, Principal Adrian Ramirez and Assistant Principal Claire Grissom recommended the board retire “stand-alone” courses including Fashion and Textiles, Teledramatic Arts, Beginning Band, Jazz Band, Music Theory and AP Music Theory as one class and retain Introduction to Music, Band and Choir. They also recommended reducing classes in certain pathways including Careers With Children, Child Development, Intro to Tech Writing and Technical Writing.

Additionally, the business pathway would be phased out and an engineering design pathway would be phased in. Lastly, Ramirez recommended the horticulture pathway be completed with a genetics course.

It was also noted that staff will track students up to eight years after graduation to see how successful they are in college.

Laura Romero

Laura Romero has been a reporter and handled marketing/social media for BenitoLink. She has covered education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. With her PR skills, she has helped to implement social media strategies and develop online giving campaigns for BenitoLink. Laura continues to contribute to BenitoLink on a freelance basis.