New El Portal classrooms may not be ready by fall

GILROY
– A new bus access road at South Valley Middle School is
finished, but construction on nearby classrooms for El Portal
Leadership Academy – which are needed to house students at the
start of the school year in August – has yet to start.
GILROY – A new bus access road at South Valley Middle School is finished, but construction on nearby classrooms for El Portal Leadership Academy – which are needed to house students at the start of the school year in August – has yet to start.

When El Portal, Gilroy’s charter high school, announced this spring a plan to accelerate construction on its new building, Gilroy Unified School District also expedited its plan to re-route buses entering and exiting the depot on Swanston Lane. The new bus access road, which connects the depot to I.O.O.F. Avenue to prevent buses from backing up to Monterey Street, was finished Friday.

El Portal now hopes to break ground on their new buildings on July 1, said Charlie Van Meter, GUSD’s director of facilities planning and construction. He expects construction will take at least two and a half months, which makes it highly possible that the new classrooms would not be finished for the start of school Aug. 30.

If El Portal – which will include ninth, 10th and 12th grades next year – can enroll full classes for all three grade levels next year, it would have 240 students, significantly more than last year’s 133. The new building will initially house 260 students.

For now, El Portal is sticking to its timeline of having the new two-story modular building ready, said Esther Corral-Carlson, GUSD’s director of student assessment and El Portal liaison.

But, four contingency “Plan Bs” have been prepared in case the building takes until mid-September:

• House some students in the Mexican American Community Services Agency’s Youth Center on Railroad Street

• Start school two weeks late and end two weeks late in June

• Temporarily increase class size (classes are currently capped at 20 students)

• Hold physical education classes of 47 students each class period, thereby removing those students from the classrooms

“Parents would be informed ahead of time of the ‘Plan A’ or ‘Plan B’,” Corral-Carlson said.

The school, presently located at 240 Swanston Lane on the north end of the South Valley campus, is building its permanent building on a 2.5-acre parcel of GUSD land adjacent to Community Day School, at 275 I.O.O.F. Ave.

The new facility is largely prefabricated and assembled on site, Van Meter said. It will be expanded later for a final capacity of about 330 students.

Lori Stuenkel covers education for The Dispatch. She can be reached at 847-7158 or [email protected]

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