San Benito High School District officials are in the process of gathering input from local residents and families on their priorities and preferences for a second high school within the district’s jurisdiction.
The district has long foreseen the need for a new high school, as Hollister High School is on the verge of outgrowing its capacity of 3,437 students. Hollister High is projected to exceed a student population of 3,500 by the end of the 2022-23 school year, according to the district website.
The rate of Hollister High’s growth has accelerated in recent years, as more new housing and new residents with children have moved into San Benito County. Since 2018, the school’s enrollment has grown by about 17.8%, SBHSD officials have noted.
A new high school that can serve up to 1,400 students, with the ability to expand to serve 1,800, is currently estimated to cost about $206 million, according to the district. Details such as a location and design for a new high school have not yet been determined.
The district recently held two town halls on the community’s expectations for a second high school within SBHSD, and will host a number of “listening and awareness sessions” scheduled at school sites in and around Hollister through Nov. 15.
About 75 residents and staff members provided feedback at the town halls on Aug. 30-31—one in English and one in Spanish. The district has so far collected more than 500 comments across six focus areas from attendees.
Priorities identified by the comments at the recent town halls were led by a “desire for a welcoming, positive, caring and inclusive school culture,” says a press release from SBHSD.
Interested respondents also frequently pointed out the need for windows, natural light and well-lit classrooms in a new high school, as well as the desire for a high level of academic rigor and a variety of educational and extracurricular opportunities for students, says the press release.
“Town hall participants want students to have multiple pathways to pursue academic achievements, including career technical education and the trades, dual enrollment in college courses and through an international baccalaureate program,” says the press release.
A safe and secure campus was also cited as a top priority, as was a well-managed traffic flow for the drop off and pick up of students before and after school.
Other common responses on the wish list for a new high school included performing arts spaces and natural landscaping, according to SBHSD.
Six focus areas emerged from comments over the two recent town halls. These are values and programs; facilities; biophilia/nature; safety; food and technology.
Among the athletic facilities mentioned on participants’ wish lists were a gym, stadium, basketball courts, turf playing fields, a pool and a track.
Town hall attendees also listed performing arts spaces, a state-of-the-art library, CTE shops, a robotics facility and labs, and large, open classrooms and walkways with ample space for students to move around and learn.
Adequate and convenient parking was commonly voiced as a priority. Safe and easy access for bicycle and pedestrian traffic was another item on the wish list for a new high school, the district said.
Commenters at the Aug. 30-31 town halls also cited the need for a new campus to have a large, central cafeteria that could accommodate all students, and “a menu of healthy, tasty and fresh food, preferably made from scratch.” In addition to a cafeteria, people called for food carts, snack bars and a food court, as well as a student union or quad area. Some respondents would like students to have the option to have diverse food options, including vegan and vegetarian items.
During the feedback activity, classrooms being well-equipped with technology was listed as a priority in a second high school, along with better internet access, a modern public address system and technology-focused learning.
Following the recent town halls, the district began a series of 10 K-8 Listening and Awareness Sessions at local elementary school sites, starting at Rancho Santana last week, continuing this week at R.O. Hardin Elementary and continuing on Sept. 27 at Cerra Vista School, SBHSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum said in the press release.
“We’ll visit other campuses through November, allowing our community to learn about the specific need for a new high school and giving attendees a chance to share their priorities for that new campus,” Tennenbaum said.
“I am proud that so many San Benito County residents are invested in the process of developing a new school to meet the needs of our growing community,” Tennenbaum continued. “Together we can, together we will, build a brighter future for all of our students.”
Second high school information gathering
The San Benito High School District has invited residents and families to attend upcoming “listening and awareness sessions” at local schools. The purpose of the sessions is to learn about and provide input and preparation for a second high school in the district’s area.
The sessions are scheduled for the following evenings and locations:
– Oct. 4, Rancho San Justo
– Oct. 11, Calaveras/AAA
– Oct. 18, Southside/Rural School
– Oct. 25, Maze Middle School
– Nov. 1, Sunnyslope Elementary
– Nov. 8, Ladd Lane Elementary
– Nov. 15, HDLA