CAMARILLO, Calif. – In August, 400 Camarillo and Somis students will get to experience high school with that new paint smell. Rancho Campana High School, the long-awaited campus adjacent to the Camarillo Library, will open to freshmen and sophomores in the next academic year.
When construction began in February, workers mainly focused on underground infrastructure. But now some very visible signs of a new school can be seen from the library, including structural steel and a 54-foot wall that will eventually be the backdrop of a performing arts stage.
“Overall we’re on schedule. Some buildings are ahead of schedule and some are behind,” said Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dickinson. “We’re opening in August for ninth- and 10th-graders, that’s not going to be an issue.”
The one-month application period for Rancho Campana begins Saturday. Incoming freshmen and sophomores living in the ZIP codes 93010, 93012 and 93066 can apply online through the district’s website or pick up an application at the Oxnard Union High School District office or Camarillo and Somis schools.
If there are more than 200 applicants at each grade level, the district will conduct a lottery. There will not be a waiting list for the students not selected. Instead, the district will run the lottery again with the remaining applicants each time a space opens up.
In January there will be an orientation for students and parents to learn more about Rancho
Campana. The school will have three academies: arts and entertainment, health sciences and engineering.
“Students will belong to one of these academies. We encourage kids to take classes across academies,” said William Dabbs, an administrator for the district. “At the orientation they can have face-to-face discussions with the principal to help them decide what’s best for them.”
Compared to Camarillo High and other district schools, Rancho Campana is much smaller. When the school houses all four grade levels by 2017-18, the student body will have about 800 students. By comparison, Oxnard High School has 2,808 students. It is the school board’s wish to build smaller high schools, with the thinking that some students learn better in a smaller community.
The district has plans to build two more high schools in Oxnard that will be about the same size as Rancho Campana. While Rancho Campana will have intramural sports, it will not have an athletic program. Students who want to participate in sports can do so at their neighborhood school.
Rancho Campana also won’t have a library because of its proximity to the city’s library. In anticipation of 400 teenage neighbors, the library reached out to other libraries that are adjacent to high schools for new ideas.
“We expect the dynamic of the library to change with the teen population,” said Head Librarian Barbara Wolfe. The library will section off the current young adult space so teens will have a dedicated room. There will also be a new enclosed outdoor patio. “When school is out, they want to socialize, eat, rehydrate. That space will give them a chance to do that,” Wolfe said. “Currently they tend to go upstairs to study. This way they can claim the young adult space as their own.”
In the library’s lobby are weekly photos of the school construction across the way, where 50 to 80 workers arrive every weekday. Most of the buildings on the 28-acre campus are scheduled to be complete when school starts in August. The performing arts center, designed for school performances and community theater, will take several months longer to complete.
Rod Leard, senior project manager, said the auditorium is the most complicated building to construct. “It’s really a machine we’re building. It’s not a building,” Leard said. Academic buildings will have walls with large windows that can be raised much like a garage door. Leard said this feature blurs the line between indoor and outdoor space.
While the classrooms will not be air-conditioned, there is under floor heating and a fresh air intake system. “I think of it as a small community college,” Leard said. “It’s not a standard empty box classroom. It’s one notch above what a high school should look like.”
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