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Morgan Hill
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August 19, 2022

Need for Sobrato questioned

The need for a second high school in Morgan Hill was questioned
again at Monday night
’s regular School Board meeting.
The need for a second high school in Morgan Hill was questioned again at Monday night’s regular School Board meeting.

Site preparation work for construction of Sobrato High is under way, following an Oct. 18 groundbreaking ceremony.

“Although most instructors that I come in contact with do believe strongly in the merit of a four-year high school, they also have grave concerns about our district’s financial inability to operate two comprehensive high schools,” said Live Oak physics teacher Glen Webb, addressing the board during the public comment section of the meeting.

There was little discussion among trustees and district staff about the issue at the board meeting.

Britton Middle School teacher Brooke Bailey said the district has wasted the taxpayers’ money.

“You blew so much money on Barrett and lost state modernization funds because Jacobs didn’t know how to design a California school, that now you want to short change Live Oak and use the $9 million of modernization funds they finally did qualify for (when Proposition 47 passed in November) on Sobrato – stealing from Peter to pay Paul,” she said.

Final construction costs of Barrett Elementary have not been released; however, the costs to date have been approximately $19.5 million. The guaranteed cost given by Jacobs Facilities, Inc., the firm that handled construction of Barrett, to the board in February 2001 was $16.8 million. The school opened one year after originally scheduled, causing a mini-Barrett campus to be created at Paradise Elementary and some families to have children in more than one elementary school.

The School Board decided to look more closely at Jacobs when another milestone was reached in its contract. In October, trustees directed district staff to issue a request for proposals (RFP). Proposals were received from several construction firms, and an interview committee made a recommendation to the board at the Nov. 18 board meeting to renew Jacobs’ contract. The previous board voted 3-3 on renewal, which in effect meant the motion was defeated.

New board members Shellé Thomas, Amina Khemici and Mike Hickey have requested more information before choosing a construction management firm. Trustees held a special meeting Jan. 6. Jacobs representatives and representatives from Turner Construction, the other firm under consideration, attended the meeting to answer trustees’ questions. Another special meeting will be held Jan. 22 to discuss the results of individual interviews with Jacobs and Turner.

Bailey said the district needs to select a management firm other than Jacobs.

“What district would choose an inexperience company out of Florida when we have so many experienced firms to choose from locally?” Bailey asked. “Jacobs produced the ugliest and costliest elementary school in California and made so many mistakes at Live Oak, it would take me more than my allotted three minutes to list them.”

Sobrato High is slated to open for the 2004-2005 school year and to cost approximately $76 million. The idea for this second high school became more concrete after Morgan Hill voters passed a bond in 1999. The $72.5 million bond, which passed on the third try, some say because of property donated by the Ann Sobrato family, was to fund construction of Barrett Elementary, renovations at Live Oak High and construction of Sobrato.

Trustees are waiting on a report to show how much bond money remains to pay for Sobrato and the remaining Live Oak renovation work.

Another aspect of the controversy about the new high school is that the district has used eminent domain to acquire the major pieces of property that the actual school buildings will stand on. The donated property is in a greenbelt area, so the district sold 75 acres of it to San Jose for $3.5 million.

For the project to proceed as planned, at least five trustees will have to vote to acquire at least two other parcels through eminent domain.

Live Oak water polo coach, P.E. teacher and Marriage and Family teacher Mack Haines said he wanted the board to know that teachers care about the high school issue.

“Teachers do care; if they’re not here, it’s because they’re home preparing finals, grading papers,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re not losing sleep about this … You (board members) made the best decision at the time, with Cisco coming in, a healthy state budget and research showing the benefits of small schools. However, times have changed.”

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