Housing / Land Use

Santana Ranch School design nears completion

Land negotiations and asbestos among challenges.

The design of the Santana Ranch School is 70 percent ready, said Hollister School District Director of Facilities John Teliha at the San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 6. The estimated cost for the project is $41.5 million.

The school is expected to offer academic instruction from Kindergarten through 8th grade with a capacity between 750 and 900 students. It’s scheduled to open in 2021.

Teliha said because of the site’s topography, the school district took a three-tier approach to its design: the first tier being parking lots and buildings, the second being the asphalt/play area and the third being playing fields for soccer and baseball. According to the conceptual drawing presented at the meeting, the second tier will consist of basketball and foursquare courts.

The school will be two stories and have about 36 classrooms, Teliha said. However, some will be used as multipurpose rooms for food preparation and other student programs.

The back of the school will face Fairview Road with the main entrance on Santana Ranch Drive, located off Sunnyslope Road.

The process has not been smooth for the school district. It faced challenges with developer Anderson Homes when negotiating the purchase of the 12-acre parcel.

At the Sept. 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, then-Hollister School District Superintendent Lisa Andrew said the developer originally agreed to prepare the land to build a school at no cost to the district, but later went back on its word. She also said the developer’s appraised value of the land was very different from the district’s appraised value.

The Hollister School District paid $5 million for the new school site in June. In July they entered into a contract with Otto Construction, Inc. to design and build the school for $41.5 million.

The district also incurred extra costs in dealing with naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) found at various depths beginning five feet at the school site.

The primary risk to asbestos is exposure through inhalation; other risks include ingesting water that is contaminated with it. According to the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), over time asbestos may cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and non-cancer diseases.

Community members received a letter from the Department of Toxic Substance Control dated Aug. 6, stating environmental studies revealed naturally occurring asbestos at the school site.

According to the Preliminary Environmental Assessment Report dated April 11, 2016, fibers of winchite were found between depths of 5 and 5.5 feet, while microns of amphibole were found between 10 and 15.5 feet. Chrysotile structures were found between 20 and 20.5 feet.

Asbestos is classified into two groups; serpentine and amphibole. Winchite is considered a fibrous amphibole that has historically not been classified as asbestos, but has been implicated as a cause of serious diseases, according to a publication on U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health.

The school is paying about $80,000 for asbestos containment services, according to DTSC documents.

Teliha told BenitoLink the school district won’t remove the asbestos, but will construct a “cap/layer over the NOA and an identifiable marker will be placed between the layers to identify NOA exists below the demarcation barrier.”

Besides constructing a cap, DTSC also suggests removal of materials containing NOA, covering the site with imported clean fill materials, or not building on the land.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.