Carmel High School students and graduates have witnessed numerous recent improvements to the campus, including renovations to the stadium, science wing and performing arts center; however, the vast majority are unaware of the historic decision that was made to improve upon the CHS campus in its current location, rather than move the high school down to the much larger middle school campus.
The property of Carmel Middle School, originally owned by William Hatton, was purchased in 1961 by the Carmel Unified School District, according to CMS teacher Anna Williams, a descendant of Hatton,. Before the opening of the then-grades 6-9 school, the property had been used as a dairy farm for the Hatton family.
“I believe it was 1961 when it was sold, and construction began later that year, resulting in a 1963 opening of the middle school,” Williams says.
Originally, CMS was built with the intention of later becoming the high school campus. The January 1963 edition of the Carmel Pine Cone reads, “It is a school of the future both in orientation and use. According to plans, it will one day become a senior high school.”
The Pine Cone notes that the objective was to have the high school located at the CMS property and have two junior high schools: one at the location of CHS and the other in the valley.
This option was explored based on CMS’s expansive space, numerous sports fields, possibility of an additional gymnasium and ample parking, according to Board of Education member Karl Pallastrini, formerly a principal at both CMS and CHS. Pallastrini notes that because CMS was built at a time without neighborhoods nearby, heavily attended events and stadium lights would not have been an issue.
“During the final stages of construction, sentiment from the community and the School Board at the time changed, and the decision was made to keep CHS at its current and only location,” Pallastrini says. “What happened then was a rare change of vision that you would never see happen today.”
After construction, the notion was completely dropped for two decades until CUSD Board of Education noticed a significantly large surge in class sizes as the baby boomers enrolled in local elementary schools, according to former CHS teacher and graduate Jeffrey Wright.
“The Board of Education then gave serious consideration to moving the high school to the CMS campus because they had room to expand,” Wright says.
This shift could have accommodated the increasing numbers of CUSD students.
While the possibility of expansion was more than likely at CMS, most teachers at CHS were against the move, fearing the loss of the “country club” beauty the high school has retained, Wright notes. Despite the abundance of space, there were other issues with the move, such as inadequate sporting facilities and a lack of natural light.
As it appears, the Board of Education accurately predicted the tsunami of students, as CHS classrooms were filled to the brim with teenagers, Wright says.
“I was teaching in Salinas then and the CHS campus was packed,” Wright says. “Classrooms were scheduled every period of every day and jammed with as many desks at they could stuff into the rooms!”
After the baby boomers went through the district and eventually graduated, the number of CHS students gradually decreased and has begun to slowly climb again throughout the past few years.
This hypothetical switch has not been considered since; however, it is an interesting option considering the general desire of the CHS population to have lights on the sports fields and issues with parking.