Published in the October 31 – November 13, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Steve Kim

Every school day more than 450 young people from the South Valley travel up to two hours each way to attend a Catholic high school, putting additional cars on the road and greenhouse gases into the environment, contributing to the horrible commute traffic and poor air quality. This also means that many South County teens are not full participants in their local communities. The time is now for the South County Catholic High School.

Families, including non-Catholics, choose Catholic education for a variety of reasons. Some families choose a Catholic high school for the emphasis on values that reach far beyond the classroom. Each of the six high schools in the Diocese of San Jose emphasize leadership through service, evident in the number of hours that students contribute annually to their local communities: volunteering at food pantries and soup kitchens for the homeless, mentoring at-risk students, visiting lonely seniors in healthcare facilities, and teaching developmentally disabled youth to ride horses and enjoy nature, just to name a few examples. The South County communities of Hollister, Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill should also enjoy the benefit of these students’ meaningful contributions.

The South County Catholic High School will be a good neighbor and contribute greatly to the larger Morgan Hill and Gilroy communities. Catholic High Schools in the Diocese of San Jose enjoy an extraordinary amount of diversity in the ethnicity, national origin and income level of the student body. South County Catholic High School will continue this tradition, welcoming students from all backgrounds and walks of life. Before the capital campaign to build the school has even started, there is already an endowment to ensure that all qualified students can attend the state-of-the-art school. The South County Catholic High School will help keep kids in the community where they can make meaningful contributions.

This high school has been the dream of generations of local farming families. The proposed state-of-the art high school will incorporate modern technology with a curriculum that celebrates and enhances the area’s agricultural heritage. It will add to the mix of school options for South County families and help add capacity in an area that is experiencing growing enrollment. Overall, throughout the Diocese of San Jose, less than 30 percent of students who apply to area Catholic schools gain admittance and the projected enrollment of students in the local public-school districts indicate the need for an additional co-education comprehensive high school. Most residents in South County recognize the need for additional educational options. In fact, the property that the Diocese purchased for building the school was intended to be the future site of a comprehensive public high school in preparation for the expanding enrollment.

The proposed site is tucked behind the hotels facing U.S. 101 and sits just outside the city of Morgan Hill’s Urban Service Area. Approval from the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), an appointed body of officials charged with setting the city boundaries within each county, is required for annexation to the city of Morgan Hill. The city of Morgan Hill has requested the expansion of the Urban Service Area and LAFCO commissioners will make their decision at the Dec. 4 meeting. Ostensibly, the commissioners are determining Morgan Hill’s city limits, but in so doing they will be determining the future education options of South County families.

The South County Catholic High School will be a good neighbor and make ongoing and significant contributions to the communities of Hollister, Gilroy, Morgan Hill and even South San Jose. LAFCO commissioners should consider the needs of those South County residents who are seeking the right opportunities for their families that will allow their children to continue their educations within their communities that they love.

Father Steve Kim of the Diocese of San Jose serves as the chairman of the high school committee. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.


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