San Benito County residents gathered Saturday over coffee and cookies to get the scoop on Gavilan College.
Dr. Kathleen Rose, college president and superintendent, presided over the informal gathering at Mars Hill Coffeeshop.
Of particular concern to the locals in attendance was the continued lack of a college satellite campus in Hollister.
Rose said Gavilan College planned to conduct a feasibility study to see if the community would support a general obligation school bond measure in November 2018. The study, which could start as soon as this week, will be a telephone survey of a randomized sample of the population.
Measure E, a facilities improvement bond that voters approved in 2004 helped Gavilan College purchase a 75-acre property, referred to as Fairview Corners on Fairview Road near the Ridgemark Golf Club and Resort in Hollister. The lot was purchased as a potential campus site. But after more than ten years, no construction has taken place.
“The development has been ongoing ever since,” Rose said. “It’s taken 10 years to get the incidental take permit for the tiger salamander, which allows us to be cleared to do initial building on the property.”
While Rose said the college is in continuous conversation with Morgan Hill-based Dividend Homes about the next phase of development on the property, funding is still an obstacle.
“The [California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office] requires enrollments for buildups,” Rose said. “Five hundred full-time equivalent students in order to be considered an education center. Once you get to 1,000 students it becomes a larger status and you can get more money from the state. With continued enrollment comes continued funding from the state, which increases our ability to add to facilities onsite.”
In lieu of that, Gavilan College has to look for other funding.
“You can build a campus starting with an education center and build out from there to be able to support this community as it grows,” Rose said. “That’s the vision. Until then, we continue doing what we do at the Briggs Building and all the pockets of noncredit to pathway programs we have. We also continue our partnership with San Benito High School as we move forward with content that makes sense.”
Hollister resident Ruth Erickson asked about Gavilan College’s involvement with a proposed technology, education and learning center, commonly referred to as the TEL center. At a San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this year, the TEL center was estimated to cost $47.5 million.
Rose said she’d be part of a TEL center advisory board comprised of representatives from San Benito County, San Benito High School and the cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista.
“We’ll continue to look at what we can do to support resources at the library,” Rose said.
As conversation shifted to the Briggs Building, one resident asked if the planned 400 block development nearby would impact student parking.
Gavilan staff said even though there are 143 parking spaces in the building, some students already have to park elsewhere.
In a phone call Tuesday, City Manager Bill Avera said the 400 block is located in what’s known as the Downtown Parking District.
“If you’re in this geographical area downtown, you’re not required to have onsite parking,” Avera said. “In this case, the whole reason why it was constructed to begin with was to support development of the 400 block.”
Rose said Gavilan would continue to have a presence in the Briggs Building.
“We’ve been in the Briggs Building for 20 years and we’ll continue to offer instruction there as long as the community makes sense to do so,” Rose said. “We do know Hollister will be a place where education needs will continue to grow. As plans continue for development of the 400 block, we’ll continue to watch.”