south valley middle school
People tour the new South Valley Middle School gymnasium during a Nov. 27 ceremony marking the completion of the school’s renovation. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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The past three years have been anything but routine for the students and staff at South Valley Middle School.

Not only did they have to contend with the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced students to learn from their homes, but they also navigated two years of construction on their new campus.

To demonstrate some of the challenges, Principal Guillermo Ramos estimated that the band program alone met in eight different locations since March 2020.

But through it all, everyone adapted.

“It’s experiences like these that make me proud,” Ramos said. “The staff and students persevered through all the challenges and did it in a positive manner.”

On Nov. 27, students, staff and the public gathered at South Valley Middle School to celebrate the completion of the $90 million transformation of one of Gilroy’s oldest campuses at 7881 Murray Ave.

The campus includes six classroom pods, with one designed specifically as a science lab, in addition to outdoor learning spaces, a new administration building, track and field, media center, kitchen, 12 pickleball courts and more. 

The main entrance to the school shifted from its previous spot on the narrow IOOF Avenue to Murray Avenue, with a designated 450-foot-long drop off area and more than 100 parking spaces.

The centerpiece of the campus’ design is the quad, featuring turf designed in the shape of a tiger’s paw, paying homage to the school’s mascot. The area is meant to have a village feel, with the classrooms surrounding the main gathering area.

Ramos praised the designers and builders, saying that they were able to incorporate many features into the campus based on feedback from the school community.

Students moved into the new classroom buildings at the beginning of the previous school year as the rest of the campus was being built out. Recently, they were given access to the gym and amphitheater, as well as the entire track and field.

Aedis Architects is the design firm, while Flint Builders is the contractor, both of which were involved with the Brownell Middle School modernization project in Gilroy, which wrapped up shortly before work began on South Valley.

The project is funded by the 2016 voter-approved Measure E bond.

“I’m so proud and thankful to the voters of Gilroy for giving us the resources to build this incredible place for teaching and learning,” Ramos said. “This is truly a gift and a testament that the students of Gilroy matter to our citizens and the Gilroy Unified School District.”

Also during the ceremony, the school honored longtime South Valley coaches Bert Mar and Janetta Kelley.

Kelley, who died in 2003, taught and coached 23 years at South Valley and Brownell middle schools.

Mar taught and coached wrestling at South Valley Middle School for nearly three decades.

The bronze plaques honoring the coaches that were in the original gymnasium were relocated to the entrance of the new facility and rededicated on Nov. 27.

“This is an honor,” Mar said. “For me, it’s a special treat because I get to see it when I pass by, and I get to talk to some of my old friends.”

Kelley’s daughter Namra said her mother “loved every moment” of her career.

“She would’ve been very proud of this,” she said. “She was always very proud of South Valley.”

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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