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District aims for a new high school by fall 2028 

Sep 11, 2023Sep 11, 2023

San Benito High School District's vision includes a new high school serving its students beginning in the 2028-29 school year. While the district has yet to identify a location, it has completed its master plan, which includes a new high school, and is looking at ways to fund the project.

San Benito High School District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum and the district's financial advisor Jeff Small gave a presentation May 17 to the county's Planning Commission outlining the Hollister High School's current enrollment of over 3,500 and the need for a second high school. They told BenitoLink in June that the estimated cost for the new school would be approximately $200 million.

Hollister High School is over capacity and is already the third largest in Northern California, according to Tennenbaum.

Small said the district's annual budget for Hollister High is $51 million. Funding comes from a 1% property tax that makes up 42%, and the remaining 58% comes from the state. Small said 74% of the budget goes to salaries and benefits of the district's 346 employees; 10% goes to books and supplies; 10% to operations; and about 4% to capital outlay.

Funds for the new high school would come from a combination of sources, including new residential and non-residential development fees, the state, and a local general obligation bond measure. The district will also consider joint-use partnerships with Hollister and San Juan Bautista, the county and Gavilan Community College to reduce costs and create opportunities for the students. Small told BenitoLink the district has qualified for $11.6 million in state funds so far, though it may take years to receive them.

"We’re at the precipice," Small told the Planning Commission. "It's very important that the district be very active and very vocal about delivering that second high school."

Tennenbaum said the district is planning a decade or two into the future. He said the projected enrollment at Hollister High School is 3,437 by fall. Further projections are for 3,900 by 2025 or 2026 if homes continue to be built at the present pace. He said seven portable classrooms were added to the campus in August 2022 for $3 million. The California Department of Finance estimates there will be 1,765 more students at the school by 2031, which he said could be the population of an entirely new high school.

The $200 million would pay for only the first phase of a new school that would initially accommodate 1,200 to 1,400 students, Tennenbaum told BenitoLink. It would include approximately 45 classrooms, a gymnasium, library, and kitchen/cafeteria.

He said the school would have to share the football stadium, the aquatics center, and the softball and baseball fields.

"The proposed high school [in] phase one would have a multi-purpose field that would have both softball and baseball. It would have lines for football, soccer and lacrosse," he said because there would be a need for physical education space.

He said the sports teams for the new high school would not be Balers.

"There's only one Balers," he said.

The district currently owns a 71-acre site along Best Road near Airline Highway where a new high school could be built, but Tennenbaum said it could function as collateral for another site. He said 50 acres are needed for a new school and a number of locations around Hollister are under consideration.

To fund the new school would require investments in land, infrastructure (electrical, water, sewage), and construction. Ideally, Tannenbaum said, the school would be easily accessible by vehicles, bikes and walking.

There will also be opportunities to seek grants, private donations, corporate philanthropic partnerships, community foundations, banking institutions and federal funds, according to the 2022-23 Facilities Needs Committee Annual Report.

Tannenbaum said the current development mitigation fee, which is paid by developers for each new residential unit that is constructed, is not enough to fund a new school.

Currently, the mitigation fee is $2.98 a square foot, which is $5,960 for each 2,000-square-foot home that is built. Small said the amount should be closer to $31,000 per home.

Tennenbaum added that he and Small had visited a new high school in Parris, in Southern California, where the developer was paying $25,000 per home to the school district.

Tennenbaum said if all the pieces fall into place as hoped, the first class would attend the new school in the fall of 2028.

Asked why the district did not foresee the present overcrowding situation, he explained that the enrollment growth was static for many years and the school was "comfortable" with 2,800 to 2,900 students. Then, after the 2008 financial crisis and a building moratorium, several housing developments approved as far back as 20 years ago moved forward simultaneously.

"Our facility master plan process started seven years ago when I took the job and we’ve done a phenomenal job of trying to stay proactive and that's why we’re here today," he said at the Planning Commission meeting. "We’ve got to get out in front of that."

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San Benito High School District's vision includes