The San Benito High School District has a tough task ahead in deciding how much of the school’s facilities should get costly upgrades, and when they should occur, because it’s nearly impossible to project future growth trends while the real estate industry remains in the dumps, and will for the unforeseeable future.

District trustees recently were presented a range of options, with costs, for upgrades that include building a second high school, rebuilding the school at the current site or selectively constructing the piecemeal projects of highest need.

The cost amounts are preliminary, and the district is far from deciding its preferred direction. But the higher-end numbers, preliminary or not, show the harsh reality of modern construction costs and demand the kind of necessary tax dollars that the public is unlikely to approve of anytime soon.

The San Jose firm hired to make the district’s projections estimated that rebuilding the ideal, centralized high school on the current campus would cost about $159 million; a second high school would cost $100 million; and the most scaled-down version – to build a new stadium, a new wrestling room and new special education classes, among other updates – would cost $28 million.

As the district is wisely taking a multi-directional tack in examining future upgrades, we recommend the most cost-efficient, short-term strategy to fix what needs fixing – and that’s to move forward on only the projects that will absolutely necessary in the near future.

Local taxpayers are just not ready to approve a nine-figure bond to pay for either a rebuilt school or a second campus – the less expensive and most rational of the two options – in the wake of spiked water rates, the approval of a sales tax increase and a general economic unease. We get the sense voters would like to see how the Measure T dollars are handled before they go approving anything close to a $100 million bond.

Even the $28 million for the piecemeal fixes seems steep, especially considering the inevitability that the nine-figure bond will be necessary at some point, assuming taxpayers reject the notion for a bond measure in the short term.

Trustees made the right decision at last Tuesday’s meeting by asking the facilities master planning committee and the architecture firm to go back to school departments to gauge which projects are of utmost importance.

We expect them to come back with a more refined, ranked priority list of projects considered in the “urgent need” category, and at a cost taxpayers would be more willing to swallow.

And for the long term, telling by the firm’s estimates released last week, a second high school is by far a better option than rebuilding the current campus, which would cater to 3,300 students, about 300 more than San Benito High has enrolled. It’s much less expensive and offers more flexibility for capacity at a time in which short- and long-term growth of San Benito County remains unpredictable.

Previous articleJoseph Edward Grayshock
Next articleGail Gene Sewell
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here