District seeking lease offers for school site

Private school, public agencies on target list

Antonio Del Buono

As soon as one year from now, the distinctive adobe façade of Gilroy’s Antonio Del Buono Elementary School could bear a private school’s name.
Or the name of a government agency.
Or the name of a local non-profit.
Or the name of a new Gilroy charter school.
Gilroy Unified School District officials made it clear early this month when they announced the closing of the 20-year-old school that they had no intentions of putting their second-newest school in mothballs.
One goal of the closing was to save money, perhaps $750,000 in annual operating costs (not salaries, as teachers, administrators and staff will move to other schools next August).
Another goal was to lease the under-utilized northside school campus as quickly as possible, perhaps as early as next fall.
District staff is putting the finishing touches on a request for proposals for leasing the Antonio Del Buono campus. The document, which could be published and distributed by the end of the month, could give clues about how the district intends to market the site—not only the likely best use for the property but also how much the district hopes to reap in lease payments.
Gilroy superintendent Debbie Flores said in an interview that the district is not interested in selling the property, and that it is not likely to agree to a lease that is longer than five years.
The surge in residential growth that had been predicted at Gilroy’s north end 20 years ago may have fizzled, and birth rates are falling, but demographic and growth trends in the next 20 years could shift again, she said, and the district wants to keep its long-range options open. The city’s overall population continues to grow, as Santa Clara County continues to tilt south.
The district’s eagerness to find a new tenant while youngsters’ voices still resound in the classrooms and playgrounds of Antonio Del Buono is difficult to swallow for the current staff, which speculates that a desire for rental revenue from an attractive piece of real estate—more than steep declines in enrollment—lies at the heart of the closure decision.
“Declining enrollment? It didn’t have anything to do with that for me,” said a tearful Velia Cordiga, Antonio Del Buono principal for the past 13 years. “That’s what they’re saying, but for me it wasn’t that.
“They’re going to lease this site to somebody else so they can make money off of it.”
Cordiga said she believed district trustee Linda Piceno when she told parents at the Sept. 5 board meeting, “It has nothing to do with your scores; it has nothing to do with your programs; it has nothing to do with how you are doing. It has to do with having to make the budget cuts and being able to lease your site.”
There is some historical precedent to the district’s strategy. San Ysidro Elementary School closed in 2002, and Pacific Point, an expanding Christian private school, now occupies that space. Gilroy Prep, a K-8 charter school, is located at the former Mexican American Community Services Agency school buildings adjacent to South Valley Middle School on IOOF Avenue. Melanie Corona, public information officer for Gilroy schools, said in an interview Sept. 9, “There is a charter school that is interested” in the Antonio Del Buono campus, but declined to identify the school.
“We’ve always heard there is a charter school interested in this site,” said Cordiga.
Flores acknowledged on Sept. 10 that “I’ve talked to some of the private schools”—without naming any names—but downplayed talk of a charter school as a likely Del Buono tenant.
She added, “We have some informal inquiries that lead us to believe there are agencies interested in renting the building,” without identifying the “agencies.”
A new state law on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would give local school districts more say in approving and monitoring the performance of new charter schools across the state, and Flores added that the process for expanding or approving a charter school in Gilroy could take several years.
The Gilroy superintendent wants to fast-track the leasing of the school, with an August 2020 target.
“We need to close a school to save money, but we also need to look at ways to increase revenue,” she said.
The district already has a contract with Property Advisers, a national commercial real estate firm, she said.
Nonetheless, Flores—attempting to counter the suspicions of the elementary school staff and parents—emphasized in an interview, “What to do with the property if the school were to close was not a factor in the decision.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. GUSD has not reached out to the Del Buono-Weymouth Family about the decisions that affects us, the closing of Antonio Del Buono Elementary School. Despite being assured that no charter or private school would go there, now we learn, again from the Dispatch, that indeed GUSD has been in talks already and will have an RFP ready my October. This smells of back door deals due to the lack of transparency.
    Have some respect GUSD, you all made a promise 19 years ago, honor it!

  2. This is so disheartening. As a parent and a taxpayer, it just shows me that the kids are the ones who matter least. What kind of school district cannibalizes itself to bring in an outside school that will siphon off students and revenue like this?! I am originally from another state (Texas), and this sort of thing just dumbfounds me. Horrible that these families are being stripped of their neighborhood school. Bet the district wouldn’t consider doing such a thing in a higher-income area. Absolutely crushing.

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