Construction to begin on new school in Merced

MERCED, Calif.

The campus will be located at G Street near Farmland in North Merced.

This 53 acre field in North Merced is empty now. But in just a matter of months, construction crews will start transforming it into a two story school for two thousand students.

Jennifer West said, "I have two boys at Merced High and although they love the school, they often comment about how crowded it is."

West is also the Vice Chair of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce. She says the Fresno-based builder will bring much needed jobs to this county, which has a more than 20% unemployment rate.

West said, "They're very committed to using local labor and local contractors to do the subcontractors work. And that's critical."

The plans for the new school at this site also include a large gym, theater, pool, and even a culinary arts academy. And it's designed to be energy efficient.

Construction of the city's third high school will be paid for using $35 million from the state plus Measure M funds approved by district voters in 2008. But opponents argue this is the wrong time to start a project that will cost more than $76 million just to build.

Dave Honey said, "I'm not saying let's not build a high school, it's let's not build it at this time."

Dave Honey is one of two members of the district's board of trustees who voted against approving the contract last month. He says improvements need to be made to other local high schools first.

"You usually build schools when you're increasing enrollment, not decreasing enrollment, and we laid off 11 teachers this year because we're going to lose an additional 146 students next year." Honey said.

But the Merced Union High School District Superintendent tells Action News the board approved plans for the new campus based on projections for the next 10 years. He also points out it will cost less to build now than in the future. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in early June.

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