El Capitan High campus is ready for July 27 tour

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJuly 21, 2013 

With 90 additional classrooms now available at the brand-new El Capitan High School in Merced, many of the county’s portables are no longer needed. Nearly all of them have been removed.

BEA AHBECK CASSON — Merced Sun-Star Buy Photo

— Construction of Merced's third high school is finished, and the $98 million campus is ready for students, their parents and members of the community to check it out.

El Capitan High School will have a community tour July 27 from 9 a.m. to noon. Today, the school on North G Street will hold a 4 p.m. family orientation for students and parents.

El Capitan is a fully functional school, and classes could be taught there tomorrow if necessary, Principal Anthony Johnson said. But school doesn't begin until Aug. 19 for 750 freshmen and sophomores.

"It's a marvelous facility," said Leonard Kahn, assistant superintendent for business services of the Merced Union High School District. "It gets more exciting every day. It's an amazing accomplishment, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the designers and builders."

Travis Kirk, the district's capital facilities program manager, said workers are finishing up brick work on several buildings and the amphitheater. The school's furniture is almost completely set up and installed.

"It's 99.9 percent complete," Kirk said. "We're right on track. For an $80 million construction project it's gone remarkably well. Our staff is on site and working, and that's a good thing."

Johnson said the community tours later this month will be guided by student leaders and typically take 45 minutes to an hour. He said he's not sure how many people will take advantage of the opportunity to check out Merced's newest educational arena.

Mike Bik, an alumnus of Merced's first El Capitan High School which operated from 1959-62, thinks alumni will take part in the community tour and are looking forward to school starting next month.

The alumni association is planning an Oct. 5 reunion at the new school. "Some of the alumni have seen the interior of the school and it's beautiful," Bik said.

Kirk said workmen from contractor Bernards Bros. have a week or two of construction details to finish, but that won't affect the district. The school took 25 months to build.

Kahn said his two children, a seventh-grader and a ninth-grader, can't wait for the school to open. His oldest boy will attend El Capitan High next year.

"For the first time in his life, he said he can't wait for school to open," Kahn said.

Johnson said 99 percent of the school's teachers have been hired. The school will have between 27 and 30 teachers and 10-15 classified or non-teaching support employees.

El Capitan will have a seven-period day. Students are only required to take six courses but can take an additional elective class. This means more academic opportunities, and staff will make sure students don't fall between the cracks in getting the education they need, Johnson said.

No textbooks will be issued; students are encouraged to bring their own computer devices. If they don't have one, Google Chromebooks will be issued, Johnson said.

Today's orientation for parents and students will be in the gym. Students will be introduced to academic program options and opportunities for involvement. The program will include a tour.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar. com.

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