SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A proposal to tear down Leland High and Bret Harte Middle School in San Jose has caused a backlash. For some students, parents and neighbors, closing the schools is a tough sell.
With Leland High School on break this week, word of its possible closure spread fast on social media.
“A lot of people put it on Snapchat because a lot of people were upset about what’s going to happen,” said Yacoub Ajlouni, a student. “It would tear everybody’s heart to have the school like broken up.”
The idea first surfaced in San Jose Unified’s newly released Master Plan. In it, the district proposed closing and/or moving Leland High School and the adjacent Bret Harte Middle School to vacant district-owned land on Harry Road, about a mile away.
There, two new schools would be built.
Then, in place of the current campuses, affordable housing would be built where teachers, staff members and low-income families could afford to live.
“I’m just really am horrified to hear that they might consider tearing down a very well-established middle school and high school,” said neighbor Laura Boettner.
Both schools are high-scoring and well-regarded. Neighbors wonder what will become of Leland’s Pat Tillman Field.
The neighborhood, one of the wealthiest in San Jose, is lining up for a fight.
Lynn Granath lives nearby.
“I don’t think the neighbors would approve of it,” said Granath. “I think there will be an uprising of the neighbors.”
Others say the plan will hurt property values and the proposed housing is out of place in Almaden Valley.
“You would want to do that near major roadways, rail and bus stations where people would have the option of taking mass transit,” said parent Matt Mahan.
But the district says San Jose has changed dramatically, and so must the schools.
San Jose Unified is losing more and more students and teachers along with staff, like custodians, because they can’t afford to live close to the district.
“If we can find a way to make that undeveloped land be a 21st century school for our students with all the bells and whistles for our students, and get our best and brightest teachers in the classrooms by supporting them in housing, that’s a win for everybody,” said Deputy Superintendent Stephen McMahon.
The district says this is just the beginning of what will be a very long discussion over these proposals. To kick things off, they plan to hold a community meeting at Leland High on Wednesday night.