Second school silence

Gilroy
– The once vocal protests of a group of residents living near
the site of the new Christopher High School were quiet as the
school board approved the latest developments for the new
facility.
Gilroy – The once vocal protests of a group of residents living near the site of the new Christopher High School were quiet as the school board approved the latest developments for the new facility.

The high school is slated to go in at 50 acres on the west side of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Day Road. About two years ago, a group of residents near the intersection protested the district’s decision to build the new school at that site, saying they wanted to preserve the open, scenic characteristics of the area that made them want to live there in the first place.

Additionally, they questioned how the roads around the site could support all of the increased traffic the school would generate.

Now, it seems the group feels their hands are tied. During the window of time reserved for public comment on the new high school’s environmental impact report, which the board approved earlier this month, the district received only four comments, and they were all from state or county agencies. The review period was from Nov. 23 to Jan. 6.

Charlie Van Meter, the district’s director of facilities and maintenance operations, said that came as a surprise.

“Considering the concerns that people had when we had chosen that site as our preferred site, it was sort of a surprise that no (individual) came forward to at least review the document,” he said.

Cammie Brown, president of Neighbors for Responsible Development, the organization the residents formed, said the group felt the plans for the new high school were already solidified prior to the public review, and there was no point in trying to defeat them. The group has no intention at this point to further pursue the issue, Brown said.

“The developers do what they want to do here in Gilroy,” she said. “In my mind, there’s nothing individuals or a community-based group would be able to do to change the plans that had already been laid out. It just appears to me there are other powers at work than due process … in these decisions.”

One of the residents, Paul McAllister, agreed the appropriate time to fight the issue already had passed.

“This thing was so rammed down our throats to begin with,” he said. “We went after it when we felt there was a chance to go after it and when we thought it was appropriate and reasonable to do it. … We’d like to fight it and we don’t want it there, but I’m still working for a living. Most of us don’t have all the free time in the world to fight this.”

The district is required by the state to complete the environmental report before bidding and construction can begin. That process has not yet begun, as planning for the new high school still is in its preliminary, conceptual stages, Van Meter said. The school is scheduled to open in either 2008 or 2009.

Before more detailed planning can occur, the district has to devise an educational plan for the school, and the facility will mirror that plan. For example, if the new high school is going to include a biotechnology class, the district will have to plan to build a special kind of classroom with a lab.

Christopher High School will include a soccer stadium with a small amount of bleachers and baseball and soft fields, but no night lights, Van Meter said. When Gilroy High School’s new athletic complex, recently named the Garcia-Elder Sports Complex, is complete, it will be designed for use for both high schools.

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