south valley middle school
The tiger paw-shaped quad is shown in this aerial photo of the newly rebuilt South Valley Middle School at the corner of IOOF and Murray avenues in Gilroy. Photo courtesy of Gilroy Unified School District
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South Valley Middle School has been entrenched in the Gilroy community ever since it was the city’s high school in the early 20th century.

Case in point: As crews were carving into the ground to build a new field as part of a major rebuild of the school at the corner of IOOF and Murray avenues, they uncovered a shell of the original high school’s indoor pool that had been buried decades ago.

Around the same time, a couple walking by on IOOF Avenue noticed the discovery, and told crews on site that they remembered swimming in that pool back in the day.

The $90 million modernization project of South Valley Middle School, which broke ground in 2021, is nearly complete, and students will soon have full access to the variety of amenities and features offered to them on their shiny new campus.

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. 

south valley middle school
The original indoor pool of the former Gilroy High School was dug up during construction. Photo courtesy of Gilroy Unified School District

Each classroom is highly configurable, allowing teachers to attach and detach desks, as well as adjust by height for students who prefer to either stand up or sit down.

The main entrance to the school was 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, helping to alleviate traffic congestion exacerbated by the same drop-off and pickup times at the adjacent Gilroy Prep School.

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. Paul Nadeau, the director of Facilities, Planning and Management for the Gilroy Unified School District, said based on feedback from the school community during the outreach phase, the area is meant to have a village feel, with the classrooms surrounding the main gathering area.

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. By early 2024, they will have access to the gym and amphitheater, as well as the entire track and field, Nadeau said.

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.

Project Manager Marissa Van Patten said the old gymnasium, which was demolished earlier this year, will retain its dedication to Bert Mar, who coached wrestling at the school for nearly three decades. In addition, the senior class plaques from the original Gilroy High School were saved and will be later relocated to the campus on 10th Street. 

The new campus was also designed around the two redwood trees and oak tree near the former entrance on IOOF Avenue.

Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Anisha Munshi, who served as principal of South Valley Middle School from 2011-2016, said the school has a longstanding history in Gilroy, but was in major need of an update.

“I am just delighted for our students to have access to that facility,” she said, adding that such a new campus will inspire students in their academic pursuits. “The kids deserve it.”

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

south valley middle school
Crews polish the pathways next to the new gymnasium at South Valley Middle School. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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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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