Charter school plans for new campus

School plans to build on 2.02-acre south MH site

Voices College-Bound Language Academies charter school is preparing to expand to a 2.02-acre site on a currently vacant plot of land just south of downtown Morgan Hill.

The new campus, proposed on a property at the northwest intersection of Cosmo Avenue and Monterey Road, has entered a public review process, which began Aug. 30 and will end Sept. 30. 

The review process is solely for environmental review, said city planner Joey Dinh. He told this paper that following the review process the project will still have to go through site and architectural approvals. Dinh said there is not yet a timeline on construction.

Owner of Voices, Frances Teso, said the project’s target completion date is 2021.

Voices opened its Morgan Hill school in 2015, and has 248 children enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the school’s website. The new plans would more than double the number of students, growing to 504 students. 

If approved by city officials, the first phase of the project will include a two-story school building; the second phase of construction will include a multi-purpose room that will include a reading room and a special education room.

The two-story building will have 18 classrooms, according to the project’s environmental documents. On the bottom floor is proposed eight classrooms and a food serving area; the top floor will have a “teachers room” and 10 more classrooms.

A lunch area would be erected during the first phase of the project, but later replaced by a multi-purpose room that would be built in phase two. 

According to the initial study documents for the project, if approved, the school will not enroll to its full capacity the first year, but will have 360 students. 

The project site is a nesting area for some “special status wildlife species.” The initial report identified burrowing owls and nesting migratory birds and raptors as two species that could be impacted without proper mitigation plans. 

However, the project applicant, developer Pacific West Communities, is offering a mitigation plan. A report will be completed a month before groundbreaking to determine if any burrowing owls are on the site. “Should burrowing owls be found on the site during the breeding season (February 1 through August 31), exclusion zones, with a 250-foot radius from occupied burrows, shall be established,” said the initial study. 

“All development-related activities shall occur outside of the exclusion area until the young have fledged. Establishment of the exclusion area shall be determined by a qualified biologist to the satisfaction of the City of Morgan Hill Development Services Department.”

Several other similar mitigation measures were put forth to curb the impact to the nesting migratory birds and raptors. The mitigation measures would reduce the effects to a “less than significant impact,” according to the study.

Part of the school’s funding will come from an alternative facilities agreement approved in May 2016. The agreement with Morgan Hill Unified School District included a $125,000 one-time, lump-sum payment from the district. 

At a March 19 board of education meeting the MHUSD trustees unanimously approved the terms of the agreement.

Voices-Morgan Hill charter school leaders must spend the $125,000 earmarked for facilities upgrades by Jan. 20, 2022 or return the funds to MHUSD, per the agreement that was amended at the March meeting

Voices’ Morgan Hill charter school operates within MHUSD boundaries but is authorized through the Santa Clara County Office of Education. It originally ran its school out of the Advent Lutheran Church on Murphy Avenue before moving into its current location at the former Silicon Valley Flex Academy building, 610 Jarvis Drive.

The charter company, Voices College-Bound Language Academies, has four charter schools in Northern California. Along with its Morgan HIll site, it has campuses within the Franklin-McKinley, Mount Pleasant and West Contra Costa school districts.

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