Special Education Looks to Relocate

A couple of the portables on the southeast portion of the

Special day class wants to move to opposite corner of Brownell
Gilroy – It sits on the corner of Third and Hanna streets and many still refer to it as the “J” buildings, hailing back to the days when Jordan Elementary School students roamed the area.

But for the past five years, a small, quiet group of students who don’t excel in the average classroom, have filled two of the portables on the southeast corner of Brownell Middle School’s campus.

The special education students moved into the portables when Jordan closed in 2000. Through the years the facilities have aged and they don’t meet the needs of the students, said Joe Cassibba, director of business services for the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

Cassibba said the special day program, which is funded and managed through the SCCOE, needs more room in order to add a principal’s office and on-site services such as therapy.

“The objective is to bring the services to the students not the students to the services,” he said.

In order to make that change, SCCOE officials are hoping to relocate the program to a three-quarter acre plot of land on the northwest corner of the Brownell campus. The new facility would include four classrooms, therapy rooms, offices and a recreational area.

Since the district owns the land, the Gilroy Unified School District board has to approve a 40-year lease with the county.

During Thursday’s GUSD board meeting, SCCOE officials staged a presentation to illustrate what kind of facility they would like to build.

Currently, the Brownell special day program is split into two classes of eight. One group is severely handicapped and the other is emotionally disturbed and has learning disabilities, said Principal Georgette Brooker.

Because students in both groups need extra attention, the two classrooms aren’t enough, Brooker said. Currently therapists attend to students in a sectioned off area of the classroom and students have to leave campus for certain services.

The students like being a part of Brownell, particularly for social reasons, so they would like to remain on the campus, she added. The county would fund the new campus through Proposition 55, a bond measure passed by California voters in 2004.

After listening to the presentation at Thursday’s meeting, Jim Rogers expressed some apprehension.

The board member said he was concerned that taking a chunk of land would infringe on the Brownell campus.

“They’re going to take prime P.E. and soccer fields for the community,” Rogers said on Tuesday. “I think this is another case of ‘it’s open. Let’s take it.'”

The new facility also would slice into Brownell’s track.

Rogers said he supports the program but doesn’t like the spot the county officials selected. He would rather see them level the portables and place the new facility on the existing site.

“Frankly, they’re old and crummy,” Rogers said. “We should have gotten rid of them years ago (and) this would be a good excuse.”

But GUSD administrators have had their eye on that plot of land for quite some time.

Superintendent Edwin Diaz said the district is still looking into relocating its administrative offices onto the corner lot and have talked about selling off a portion of Brownell’s First Street property. The sale would net GUSD about $1.5 million, said Diaz.

The decision is all part of the Brownell facility master plan. The board is holding a study session Monday to discuss the proposal and will make a decision at the Dec. 8 meeting.

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