Students at Charter School of Morgan Hill competed in a series of construction-related games before breaking ground for the campus’ modernization project March 3. Photo: Michael Moore

The ceremonial start of a construction project that will modernize Charter School of Morgan Hill’s campus March 3 was billed as a “groundbreaking,” but it was more of a celebration that aimed to engage and entertain every student at the K-8 school. 

The vast, $16.5 million project, when completed, will result in a new library and media center that will serve as a hub for students; the replacement of aging portable classroom buildings with three new permanent, single-story structures totaling 20,000 square feet; upgrades to about 15,000 square feet of existing permanent classrooms; new administration offices and staff spaces; a new “barn” learning lab; a dedicated kindergarten play area; and reconfigured dropoff and pickup area. 

For the March 3 groundbreaking event at the 9530 Monterey Road campus, school staff and teachers arranged a portable stage and hundreds of chairs for students and guest audience members on the open yard behind the school—which was already fenced off in preparation for the new construction. Students filed out to their seats wearing red, blue and yellow—colors signifying the logo for California Distinguished Schools, which CSMH was recently designated. 

Teachers handed out cupcakes to the students before the festivities began. Following opening remarks from CSMH Principal Susan Pfefferlan and Executive Director Paige Cisewski, student teams were invited on stage to compete in a series of construction-related games as they were cheered on by their classmates in the audience. 

Students and school staff then lined up behind a row of shovels in front of the stage to complete the symbolic groundbreaking for the start of the construction project. 

Contractors for the new construction are Aedis Architects, Calstate Construction and Schimmel Project Management. Half the project’s $16.5 million price tag is funded by California Proposition 51, and the other half is paid for with a loan from the state, according to school staff. 

The project will be built in phases, starting with new classroom buildings and a new Ag Science learning space—the latter of which is funded by grant funds from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation and the CSMH Foundation, according to CSMH staff. 

The CSMH campus is currently filled with portable classrooms that haven’t been upgraded in years. School staff at the March 3 ceremony noted that the modernization project is badly needed. 

In her opening remarks, Pfefferlan congratulated the students, parents, teachers, staff and CSMH community for the school’s recent recognition—in the face of ongoing challenges and adversity—as one of 356 California Distinguished Schools for 2023. 

“We have been able to achieve amazing things at Charter School of Morgan Hill despite our older campus and our leaking roofs and our buzzing alarms and our slanted floors,” Pfefferlan said. “With the support of our community, a grant and generous donations we are able to begin work to greatly improve our campus.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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