The San Benito High School district has formed a committee to begin planning for a second high school in San Benito county. As I have written many times I think this would, to put it nicely, not be a very good thing for the community. 

I have written previously listing many reasons why I think this is a bad idea, and also with several alternatives including placing more kids in Alternative Education, Long Term independent study, ROP like programs with local community colleges, online learning and flexible scheduling to reduce the number of kids on campus. It appears to me that the school board and administration are “hellbent” on building a new school.

I think the biggest problem with a second school is the division it will create in the community. So I will propose one more alternative. When I was a kid growing up in Northern California, the city of Redding was facing a similar problem with Shasta High School. The city was growing, the school was getting large, but city leaders did not want to divide the community so they built Nova school—a large school which had only ninth grade students. 

All of the feeder schools in the area sent their graduates to Nova school. All of the 9th graders went to school together. Then Shasta High School only had grades 10-12, which alleviated the problems of overcrowding. 

The advantages included keeping the community intact; it was cheaper than building a second comprehensive high school; there were more extra-curricular opportunities as Nova school fielded three freshman teams. 

The San Benito High School District owns property off of Best Road, an ideal location for ninth graders. There wouldn’t be much temptation to “sneak off” and go downtown as it would be a long walk. The enrollment at Tres Pinos school is such that there wouldn’t be a problem with traffic dropping kids off and picking them up. The board and committee could decide what facilities would need to be built at the school, but I have a few suggestions. 

First, build the school to be able to accommodate about 1,200 students. That would be high at first, but would allow for growth, and at some point if they wanted to convert it to a four-year high school the option would be there. 

Second, share athletic facilities with the current high school with a few exceptions. There would need to be some practice and physical education fields, and a cafegymatorium (I know this isn’t a real word, but you know what I mean), put locker rooms in, but not a separate football/soccer/lacrosse/field hockey stadium, no track, and no baseball or softball stadium, or swimming pool. This would save a significant amount of money. 

Third, focus a lot of the district, county office and behavioral health mental health assets at the school. Really focus on getting the kids healthy academically, physically, mentally and emotionally before going to the senior high school.

And lastly, align the schedule with the high school so that there would be an option for kids to take industrial technology, and agriculture classes at the high school. Perhaps even bussing kids down to the high school for these programs. 

You could have the best of both worlds: a new school, and a united community. This is the C word—compromise—and to make the compromise complete you could call the new school San Benito County Prep School. 

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