Joseph A. Gregori High School offered its 900 students the "CLAW" Monday morning. That would be "classes, lockers and welcome," explained Principal Jeff Albritton.
Modesto's newest campus will open Aug. 11 with roughly 900 freshmen and sophomores this year. Students came at 8 a.m. to hear a pep talk, tour the campus and take care of the pre-opening day business of schedules and ID photos.
Clumps of students taking cell phone pictures gathered just before. A few yards away staff members in navy polo shirts with gold Gregori High insignias lined up behind letter-labeled file boxes. Anticipation hung in the air between the cream over tan palomino buildings.
"I think it's, like, really, really nice," said freshman Alexis Lewis of Salida, waiting for the staff presentation in Gregori's gleaming new gym. She had toured the $140 million campus before at the open house but didn't know which classes she'd gotten yet. "As long as they aren't hard, I'm OK," she said earnestly, then giggled.
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"It's cool. It's not old like all the other ones," said Michael Gallagher of Modesto.
"Oh, yeah. They're excited," said Starla Jones of Modesto, grandmother of three incoming Gregori students. "I'm glad they don't have the juniors and seniors here," Jones added after a moment, explaining there won't be bullying by upperclassmen.
A couple of burly freshmen sitting in back had no such concerns. They had been practicing for football 2½ hours a day at the campus for the past six weeks.
"It's gonna be a good team this year," said Cameron Evins of Salida. Evins and Dominic Carnley of Modesto are working to be Jaguars -- from JAG, Joseph A. Gregori -- another nod to the longtime Modesto administrator who died in 1998 at age 50.
Gregori "was known for going above and beyond," Albritton said. The Gregori family conducted a backpack drive for the school and donated more than 40 new backpacks full of school supplies last week, Albritton said.
In that spirit, Albritton said, Gregori High will be "raising the bar," using four learning communities to keep students together, network teachers and focus academics on a high-interest topic, Albritton told students Monday. In upper grades, students will be able to take specific courses in that target area.
Students in the digital media section, for example, will use a soundstage and record a video program for Gregori News and public service announcements, Albritton said. It shares the "C" building with visual and performing arts. "C" is the main classroom building along the south side of the school's crisp green center quad.
Each building wears an elegant letter tile like a monogram. They include "N," featuring career technology and global studies; "K" with art studios; "J" with a music performance center; "M" with industrial arts; and "L" with science.
Students were urged to be safe while traveling to and from the rural campus, where sidewalks end with the school.All Salida students are eligible for busing, administrators said. The MAX bus Route 28 also goes by the school.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.