Hayward Unified school board selects Highland campus as new location for Bret Harte Middle School

HAYWARD, Calif. — The Hayward Unified School District is moving forward with relocating Bret Harte Middle School to the Highland School campus, but the process will take a few years and hinges on the passage of a bond measure.

On Wednesday, Oct. 11, the district’s Board of Education unanimously selected the 5.11-acre Highland campus, which is across the street from California State University, East Bay, as the new site of Bret Harte Middle School. Relocating would require demolishing the current buildings and constructing new facilities, including a two-story main classroom building. Staff expect the campus to be ready to move into in three to four years.

“This is something that’s been needed for a long time,” said school board President Peter Bufete. “It’s been needed since I was a student at Bret Harte Middle School.”

Bret Harte Middle School’s current campus was built in the 1950s, before there were regulations around making buildings earthquake-safe. Bret Harte’s proximity to the Hayward fault line and other seismic hazards make it cost-prohibitive to renovate the building. Making any changes would require bringing the entire campus up to current building standards, which the district can’t afford, so students go without basics like heat and air conditioning.

The district landed on the Highland campus for the relocation after an extensive process with the Bret Harte community, though the community surrounding Highland expressed concerns about not being involved in the process. They also have concerns about the traffic impacts resulting from a new school with 600 students since there is currently a single road, with one lane of traffic in each direction, leading to the school.

Allan Garde, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, said the district would be able to start working on mitigating those traffic impacts and other community concerns once the board selected a campus.

But there’s another hiccup; in order to relocate and rebuild Bret Harte, the district needs money. The board voted unanimously on Wednesday to place a $550 million general obligation bond measure on the upcoming March 5 primary election. If passed by 55% of voters, the bond measure would allow the district to upgrade classrooms and make other facilities improvements, including the Bret Harte relocation and rebuild.

“If the bond measure does not pass, we will not have sufficient funds to rebuild Bret Harte,” Superintendent Jason Reimann said.

Historically, Garde said the district has a good track record of getting these types of measures passed, with all three in the past 15 years receiving over 70% voter approval.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.

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