Rancho Campana sets new tone for technology in the classroom

The students are ready for a tour.
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Of all the features built into the new $77-million Rancho Campana High School, it’s the campus’ state-of-the-art technology that rings Principal Roger Adams’ bell the most.

It’s easy to hear excitement in his voice as Adams shows off one of the school’s two “flex rooms,” which can be divided in half with a fold-down partition for smaller classroom instruction or opened up to hold as many as 100 students when a guest lecturer comes in to speak.

“What’s really neat about this classroom is that the technology is connected together,” said Adams, who majored in biological science in college. “The students are going to have a projector that’s built in, that goes right onto the white board, and it’s interactive, so they can manipulate a PowerPoint presentation or a picture.”

A little more than two weeks before Rancho Campana’s Sept. 2 opening, the flex room— and all the other classrooms—sat empty of furnishings.

Outside, a large section of the quad still hadn’t been paved. Landscaping crews bustled about, moving planters into place, while construction workers laid in the framework of the school’s parking lots, which remained unpaved.

In the athletic room, doors needed to be hung, and here and there Wi-Fi wiring poked out of the ceilings in some hallways.

“We’re going to get it done,” Adams said. “All the walkways— the entire campus—will be done and completely ready to go for the students on day one. Everything will be finished except for the performing arts center and classroom, which will be done by March 3. That’s Phase 2.”

Construction began in March 2014 but hit a snag this June when project officials announced that paving stones, instead of concrete, would be needed for the school’s 110,000 feet of walkways due to soil upheaval.

More than half of the walkways had been installed when Adams took a reporter on a tour of the campus Aug. 13.

“They just laid these pavers in today. See this area where it’s taped off? That was all dirt yesterday. So they paved all that in one day. That’s how fast it goes,” he said, adding that subcontractors were working “six days a week, 10 hours a day” to finish by opening day.

But the need for pavers caused delays and added between $1.5 million and $3.5 million in inflation related cost overruns to the project, officials said in June. It also brought the total cost for the new high school to $77.5 million.

Rancho Campana’s journey to completion began in 2004, when voters in Oxnard Union High School District passed Measure H, a $135-million bond measure to build two high schools, one in Camarillo and one in Oxnard.

It took another eight years and a change in the makeup of the district board—after a failed attempt in 2008 to create a unified school district in Camarillo— before ground finally broke on Rancho Campana.

With all that now in the past, Adams is focused on opening day for the district’s first “wall-towall academy school,” he said.

“What that means is that in all of our buildings, in all our classrooms, we link our students’ education, their typical high school experience, with the connections they need and the relevancy built right into the courses they’re taking,” he said.

Rancho Campana will follow the Linked Learning Alliance model, which provides students with real-world experience through partnerships with community and business leaders, district officials have said.

In addition, the very second students walk onto the new campus Wi-Fi access will be available via 56 “access points, which essentially shoot our Wi-Fi Internet in all directions,” Adams said.

Every student will receive a new 13-inch laptop computer with an interactive screen for making notes and drawing. They can capture screen images for use later, he said.

“We’re issuing laptops because we are going to be highly technical, in that we’re going to expect students to utilize technology not only here but at home,” Adams said.

Each of Rancho Campana’s original 400 students, 200 each in ninth and 10th grades, will be enrolled in career pathway programs offered in the school’s three learning academies — applied engineering; health sciences, which include medical and biological professions; and the arts and entertainment academy.

“Students in the arts and entertainment academy will not only be putting on plays and doing dance, they’ll be doing everything from building sets to running a production to broadcasting to multimedia in 2- and 3-D,” Adams said.

Classrooms at Rancho Campana will look different than the traditional high school room. Instead of desks, rooms will have tables and chairs that can be rearranged as needed.

“So if you can imagine it, students will be in here working together as teams, being creative, solving problems and really being in control of their own learning,” Adams said. “The teacher will be telling them what she’s looking for, giving them some parameters but having them solve the problem.”

Teachers will act as “facilitators of a student’s education, providing input and guiding them,” he said.

The idea behind the academies is to give Rancho Campana students a running start in deciding what they’d like to major in in college, said Adams, who began his career as a bioscience researcher then switched gears and completed post-graduate studies and a master’s degree in education at Cal Lutheran University.

“Don’t get me wrong—it’s still going to happen. People will still change their majors after they’re already in the university. But we want to reduce the rate at which it happens so they can focus and get those experiences early on and make those decisions,” he said.

Adams graduated from Oxnard High in 1998. He taught English to Spanish-speaking first-grade students through the Clinton administration’s America Reads program while attending UC Irvine. That’s when he first realized he didn’t want a career in science.

“I knew I loved science, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do,” he said. “What I found out through my own experience is I loved teaching.

“This is why this school is so important,” he said. “It’s those experiences, along with your education, that provide you with the information you need to make decisions about your life.”

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