The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) broke ground Oct. 26 to build three schools to serve K – 12 students living in Santa Clara’s growing North Side and in north San Jose, which is within district boundaries. The almost-60-acre elementary, junior high and high school campus is scheduled to open in fall 2019.
The campus will be built on the site of the former Agnews Developmental Center, 3500 Zanker Rd., San Jose. The state center for the developmentally disabled was closed in 2011 and its buildings will be demolished. However, as a tip of the hat to the storied past of Agnews, a weathervane from atop one building was ceremoniously removed and will be incorporated in the new campus.
“These are going to be schools that I believe everybody will be so proud to call a part of our family of schools,” said Dr. Stanley Rose, Superintendent of SCUSD. “Schools don’t get built in California every day. This is a rare occurrence. To build three at once is truly amazing.”
Indeed, the project had a turbulent history and was ultimately made possible only by the cooperation of SCUSD and the city of San Jose. The entire 81-acre site was purchased for $80 million in June 2014 from the state of California by SCUSD in partnership with the city of San José, which will build a city park on 21.6 acres of the property.
SCUSD contributed $64 million for 59.4 acres for the school campus, estimated in 2014 to serve some 2,800 students and provide more than 250 new jobs. San Jose contributed $16 million for the park land.
“We are elated to purchase this property in partnership with [San José], and serve the people of San José and Santa Clara with new schools and 21st Century learning opportunities for students,” said Dr. Rose at the time of purchase.
Construction of the schools hinged on the approval of SCUSD Bond Issue, Measure H in the November 2014 election. Passing by almost 70 percent of the votes, Measure H authorized the issuance of $419 million in bonds to improve, upgrade and build school facilities to relieve overcrowding.
State and SCUSD dignitaries took shovels in hand to break ground last Wednesday: State Senator Bob Wieckowski and Assemblymember Kansen Chu; Dr. Rose; Board President Albert Gonzalez and Trustees Jim Canova, Jodi Muirhead, Andrew Ratermann and Michele Ryan.
“We are grateful for the support of so many individuals and groups whose perseverance and faith enabled our success in achieving this groundbreaking. These three new schools will offer a neighborhood school experience for the first time for many of our students in the northeastern part of the school district,” said Ratermann. “The district has been very creative finding space at our existing high schools, but we are running out of options to add capacity. The new high school will provide much-needed relief.”
Senator Wieckowski is among those supporters.
“I was proud to be SCUSD’s lead advocate at the state level to ensure that we acquired this property. I authored AB 503 to encourage the state to sell this property to Santa Clara and San José at fair market value, because it was the right thing to do,” wrote Wieckowski on social media. Because part of the property would be used for a public park, it could be sold for below commercial market value.
“The need to fill STEM related jobs has been an increasing struggle around the country, even in our corner of the Bay Area. By investing in the students and community here at a brand new Agnews campus, we can ensure the success of our young people and the robust growth of our local economy,” said Wieckowski.