Friday, July 20 , 2018, 5:31 am | Overcast 66º


Santa Barbara High Raising Funds for New Environmental Science Building

Stacy and Ron Pulice pledge $250,000 for the project, which would replace a dilapidated shed with an outdoor classroom and shade/storage structure

Chickens happily wander around their pen and garden at Santa Barbara High School, unaware that their home will be getting an upgrade.

Private donors and the Foundation for Santa Barbara High School are fundraising to build a new outdoor classroom and storage structure next to the vegetable garden and greenhouse, which is used for Jose Caballero’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science class and Small-Scale Food Production course.

Hundreds of students have taken his courses over the past 11 years, including the three children of Stacy and Ron Pulice, who have pledged $250,000 to the project.

The project was all Stacy Pulice’s idea, who interviewed Caballero for her education dissertation and realized the success and potential for the campus’ garden area.

Everyone she talked to, including her own kids, raved about Caballero’s class.

Their son, Will, is a senior who previously took the APES class and is now working on an aquaponics project, and their daughter, Remi, is studying environmental studies at UC Berkeley, inspired by her time in Caballero’s class and as a teacher’s assistant, Pulice said.

There is a rose garden, native plant garden, vegetable garden, chicken pen, greenhouse and the site of the former shed structure, which was put up without permits and pulled down for structural issues, Principal John Becchio said.

Ideas for the new building include a shaded structure for plants, an outdoor classroom space, a locked storage and office area, solar panels on the roof and even a platform for the school’s bee hives. The structure itself is estimated to cost about $500,000.

Pulice already got the help of architect Brett Ettinger and landscape architect Eric Nagelmann for the plans, which show improvements to the whole area.

SBHS garden
Santa Barbara High School Principal John Becchio shows the space planned for a new oudoor classroom/shade structure building near the vegetable garden and greenhouse used for environmental science classes. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

At a recent meet-up to look at design plans, Caballero and Pulice talked about making a more social environment for students in a new orchard/chicken run area.

It could be more inviting for students and the community, Pulice said.

Instructionally speaking, the vegetable garden is at the core of the program, showing students what to do with the dirt, Caballero said.

The garden’s soil is excellent, “about as good as I can get my hands on,” he said. He has had it tested before and it’s “top notch” from constant management with different plantings and the chickens, which fertilize the soil and eat bugs.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education approved the fundraising plan for the project, which will be half-funded by the Pulice family.

“What was there was absolutely derelict and dangerous,” board member Kate Parker said.

Becchio said he’s not concerned about the school’s foundation taking on too much, since there won’t be much crossover in fundraising between the stadium project and this. They hope to reach out to current students and alumni of the environmental sciences classes.

Design plans will come back to the Board of Education for review and the timeline will depend on fundraising and how fast the project can get approval from the Division of the State Architect, said Dave Hetyonk, facilities director for the district.

“We could have rebuilt a minimal structure for $15,000, it would have just been chain link, poles and fabric — which is a world of difference with what you see before you on the sketch,” Hetyonk said at the board meeting. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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