Gilroy - The state’s longest continually running school, located in Gilroy’s birthplace on Pacheco Pass Highway, is starting a new chapter in its 150-year history. Anchorpoint Christian High School purchased the 8.3-acre former San Ysidro school campus from the Gilroy Unified School District earlier this month for $400,000.
The school, empty since 2002, is now being prepped for Anchorpoint’s several dozen students to start classes Sept. 7.
"We’ve really done quite a substantial face-lift," said Steve White, one of the school’s five board members. "We painted the buildings, inside and out, we’re putting in new carpeting, and the fairly substantial area of asphalt is also being resurfaced."
San Ysidro opened as a school in 1859 and operated in the same location until 2002.
During its first year of operation last year, Anchorpoint held classes in South Valley Community Church’s fellowship hall, with several hundred feet of space.
"It’s really just a tremendous change for us," White said.
He expects the school will be ready to start its second year with its own campus.
"It’s looking really remarkably different, we’ve had people stopping by on almost a daily basis, saying they graduated from here or their kids did," White said. "The school district did a very good job of keeping it in fairly good shape, despite the fact that it’s not been used in three years."
School board trustees approved the sale of the 2220 Pacheco Pass Hwy. campus, closed over growing traffic safety concerns.
"An offer of $400,000 for the property ’as is’ will save an eventual demolition of buildings, as well as annual upkeep, and the liability implicit in retaining a property which is not in use," said Steve Brinkman, GUSD’s assistant superintendent of administrative services. The money from the sale can only be used by Gilroy Unified for facilities expenditures and hasn’t been earmarked for any specific project yet, but will likely be used for growth projects, Brinkman said.
Only one other offer for the property was made to the district, Brinkman said, although that one was "fairly significantly less" than Anchorpoint’s.
"We do have our concerns about the safety of students, and so do they, and they are going about with some plans to maybe modify with one direction in and one direction out...," Trustee Jim Rogers said.
The school will have a right-turn-in, right-turn-out policy so parents and students will not cross oncoming traffic on Pacheco Pass.
"We’ve actually changed the entry and the departing area further to the east, making it so we’re farther away from the large curve (at Frazier Lake Road), which is to the west," White said.
Anchorpoint and GUSD’s sale agreement includes a provision protecting an immense sycamore tree, estimated to be more than 139 years old. Anchorpoint will have an arborist maintain the tree and will only destroy it if an arborist deems it a danger to people.
Trustee Rogers said the sale is a "win-win" because historical site will remain a school and Anchorpoint wants to honor San Ysidro’s past.
The school is working with Gilroy Historical Society and the Mountain Charlie Chapter of the male historical society E Clampus Vitus to install a plaque documenting the site’s history.
"For a couple years, we’ve been wanting to place a marker near where John Gilroy and his father-in-law Ignacio Ortega had their adobe houses, which is sort of next door to the school site, on the corner of Frazier Lake and Pacheco Pass," said Connie Rogers, Gilroy Historical Society president.
Ortega was granted the land from the Mexican government in 1809. Gilroy, a soap-maker, married Ortega’s daughter in 1821.
"He’s probably the first English-speaking, permanent resident of Northern California," she said. "In those days, people who were traveling would stop at the homes and ranches of people along the way and I guess they liked the hospitality of John Gilroy and the Ortegas and eventually, a little settlement grew up there."
The San Ysidro-area community eventually included the school, which opened in 1859, post office and blacksmith shop. With the completion of the railroad in 1869, the focus of the population moved west to present-day Gilroy and incorporated under that name.
"He actually lived under three flags: The Spanish, the Mexican and the United States, and he was a highly respected leader of his community at the time," Rogers said.
San Ysidro was its own school district until joining other Gilroy schools to form Gilroy Unified in 1966.
"That was kind of disappointing to the people who had their kids in San Ysidro, but they took it in stride," she said.