Simply put, despite its budget problems and often unpredictable politics, California remains a state of rapid growth in many areas. The number of high schools last year that belonged to one of the 10 sections of the California Interscholastic Federation was 1,309. That number is growing every year and could get close to 1,400 within five years.
Opening a new comprehensive high school designed for 2,000 students can cost a school district approximately $60 million and takes three to five years to build, including site selection and other phases of planning.
It was much more difficult for districts to build those new schools before 2000 when it took a two-third majority of voters to approve bond measures that are often needed to pay for all those costs. Proposition 39 then passed in November of 2000, which lowered the threshold of voter approval for local school bonds down to 55 percent.
A number of districts around the state immediately took advantage and obtained enough votes to help get modernization and new school construction projects rolling. This could be one reason why a survey of districts around the state this week by Cal-Hi Sports revealed that at least 13 new high schools will be opening next fall. This appears to be the highest number of new high school openings in the state for one year since the early 1970s, when the last of the Baby Boomers were teenagers.
It appears that the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Sacramento has become the biggest region for growth in the state. It's also where the interesting phenomenon of one high school towns becoming two high school towns is being played out regularly. Just last year, Pitman High became the second school in Turlock and in a few weeks Cesar Chavez High will become the second school in Delano. Ceres and Yuba City will join the list in 2005 and it's obvious that Woodland will be a two high school town sometime soon.
Central Valley growth is spurred by the more affordable housing costs for those seeking new, single-family dwellings. This feeling was echoed from a quote that appeared last week in the Visalia Times-Delta.
"The demand is for entry-level, first-time buyer, affordable homes and most of that is in the Central Valley," said Leslie Appleton-Young, economist for the California Association of Realtors. "The growth in the Central Valley is the strongest in the state. It's the last frontier in California."
The Elk Grove Unified School District opened one high school last year, will be opening another in 2004, then another in 2005 and three more within five more years down the road. That's just one reason why the Sac-Joaquin Section of the CIF should jump its number of schools close to 170 by the end of the decade. In 2002-03, the Sac-Joaquin had 156 member schools and was only two behind the North Coast Section's total of 158. Since the NCS isn't growing nearly as fast (at least for large suburban public high schools), the Sac-Joaquin will probably have more schools possibly as early as 2004.
The Inland Empire region of the CIF Southern Section continues to be a strong growth area of the state as well. Vista Murrieta of Murrieta opens in a few weeks, which comes on the heels of Vista Del Lago (Moreno Valley), Colony (Ontario) and Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) opening last fall. There were 537 reported members of the massive Southern Section for 2002-03 and that number is not going down.
Note: Thanks to good friend Phil Marquez of Fullerton for leading us in the right direction on some of these schools and for providing a few of the comments that follow.
Schools That Opened Last Year
With Varsity Football This Year
Colony (Ontario) -- Former Alta Loma coach Tim Nelson hopes to have the Titans ready for a strong showing in 2003.
El Diamante (Visalia) -- Miners will be representing the fourth high school in town. It wasn't that long ago when Redwood and Mt. Whitney were the only ones.
Evergreen Valley (San Jose) -- Who knows what the Cougars will be like in sports, but the school's focus on technology (every classroom is wired to the internet) will make it closely watched throughout the nation.
Franklin (Elk Grove) -- Wildcats will be led by Mike Johnson, who coached Lincoln of Stockton to Sac-Joaquin Section crown in 2000. The first game should be against Franklin of Stockton.
Liberty (Madera) -- Hawks are from the Golden Valley Unified School District, not Madera Unified. Liberty of Brentwood should be a future football foe.
Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) -- Will Grizzlies be the rival of Colony or one of the other two Rancho Cucamonga schools?
Nipomo -- Another Titans join the list. This nickname seems to be the most popular among new high schools (thanks, Denzel Washington).
Palos Verdes -- The return of the Sea Kings brings back memories of power-serving tennis players, swift cross country runners and chicken-legged wide receivers.
Pitman (Turlock) -- We really like this school's nickname: Pride. It's unique and really flows off the tongue.
Vista Del Lago (Moreno Valley) -- Ravens actually played some varsity games last year and finished 0-7.
Westview (San Diego) -- Wolverines didn't have juniors or seniors last year, but varsity girls softball team still won Div. IV section title.
Schools Opening This Fall
(Almost all will field JV football teams only)
Cesar Chavez (Delano) -- The great farm labor leader was born in Delano, so it's very appropriate that the first high school in the state named for him is in the same town.
Golden Valley (Bakersfield) -- This will be the state's second Golden Valley and the football program is being built by former Bakersfield High head coach Tim Hartnett. Another boring nickname: Bulldogs.
Junipero Serra (Irvine) -- They're calling this new Catholic school JSerra and it is positioned conveniently between Mater Dei to the north and Santa Margarita to the south. Nickname: Lions.
Otay Ranch (Chula Vista) -- The Sweetwater Union High School District has been overcrowded for years and that should start to change with this school opening as well as San Ysidro.
Rosemont (Sacramento) -- Lost amid all the controversy about Sac High becoming a charter school is the fact that Sac Unified is opening its first high school in many years. Rosemont will have freshmen only this year, housed in portables while the main campus is completed.
San Ysidro -- We're glad this community finally gets a high school of its own. First football coach is Mike David, who left three returning 1,000-yard rushers at Marian Catholic to get things rolling. Nickname: Mustangs.
Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) -- Broncos will be the second school in Murrieta and eventually will be a strong rival of Murrieta Valley.
Weston Ranch (Stockton) -- A Manteca Unified School District newcomer, it looks like it has the confusing nickname of "Lathrop Titans," referring to the nearby community that was hoping to get the district's fourth high school built there instead. If Lathrop had won that vote, would this school be the Lathrop High "Weston Ranch Titans?" Have they ever heard of a hyphen? That's a better solution than clumsily sticking in the name of the other community within a nickname.
Schools Scheduled To Open
In The Fall Of 2004
Arnold Beckman (Tustin) -- Not to be confused with Arnold Becker, character from old L.A. Law TV series. Nickname: Patriots.
W.A. Carter (Rialto) -- Citrus Belt League eventually to become just for Fontana and Rialto schools only?
Cesar Chavez (Stockton) -- School buildings are going up nicely just off Highway 99 and Hammer Lane area of town. Possible unique nickname (our suggestion): Hammerheads (with a shark logo)?
Foresthill -- Second high school in Placer Unified School District.
Glen Avon -- Jurupa Unified School District is opening this one, not far from Riverside Rubidoux. Golden Valley (Santa Clarita) -- Will open with ninth and 10th graders. Wish they were opening with a more original name (see above).
Interkum (Sacramento) -- Second high school in Natomas Unified School District. Being built by private company with unique lease-leaseback agreement that could be duplicated elsewhere.
Monterey Trail (Elk Grove) -- Is there a school district anywhere in America growing as quickly as Elk Grove Unified?
New Millenium (Watsonville) -- This will be the third high school in the district to go with Aptos and Watsonville. Note: Might be 2005 opening instead of 2004.
Pioneer Valley (Santa Maria) -- If they are nicknamed the Pioneers, we'll be sick.
Sobrato (Morgan Hill) -- South Santa Clara County community will get its second high school. Will Gilroy do the same soon? Note: Also might be 2005 opening instead of 2004.
Val Verde -- Campus being built just off I-215 a little north of Perris High. If Val Verde ever plays Victor Valley, we'll have V.V. vs. V.V.
West Ranch (Santa Clarita) -- Will open with ninth graders only. Construction of Golden Valley High is much farther along.
More Future High Schools
Camarillo -- Second school to go with Camarillo High is in planning stages.
Ceres -- Central Valley High is set to open in 2005.
Colton -- Third school of the district seems to be in site selection process.
Corona-Norco -- Eleanor Roosevelt High of Eastvale is set to open in 2006. Rancho Serrano High of Temescal Canyon is set for 2007.
Elk Grove -- Here they are again. Elk Grove Unified's Pleasant Grove High is set to open in 2005 and three additional high schools are on the drawing board for coming years.
Encinitas -- San Dieguito High School District is planning to build new campus on Carmel Valley Road. Current district high schools are Torrey Pines, La Costa Canyon amd San Dieguito Academy.
Fairfield -- Fourth high school coming soon for Fairfield-Suisun School District. Imelia Rodriguez of Cordelia (yes, they call it I-Rod) is only two years old.
Modesto -- Two new schools for this city are being planned for 2006 openings: Enochs High and Gregori High.
Rocklin -- Second school to go with Rocklin High in planning stages.
San Diego -- The Archdiose of San Diego recently announced sweeping changes. University of San Diego High will close by 2005 or 2006 and a new school, Cathedral of San Diego, will then open. Marian Catholic of San Diego also will eventually close and students there can then go to Mater Dei of Chula Vista, another new school. We don't know if too many Mater Dei of Santa Ana fans realize another Mater Dei is coming soon. Also, a new Catholic high school in the county is being planned and will open in a few years in Oceanside. It will be called Pax Christi.
Vacaville -- Third high school coming soon for city that already has Vacaville High and Will C. Wood.
Vista -- Third high school around the corner for Vista Unified, to go with Vista High and Rancho Buena Vista.
Yorba Linda -- New school would take crowding pressure off Anaheim Esperanza. We still say it should be named Richard Nixon High, in honor of the only native born Californian who has ever become President of the United States (and we're pretty liberal, too). The Nixon Library & Birthplace is in Yorba Linda and the former president is buried there.
Yuba City -- Sutter Buttes High will be the town's second high school. Scheduled for opening in 2005.
Note: We didn't find anything definitive in our search and survey, but the following communities have the growth so that more high schools may logically be on the horizon: Carlsbad, Lancaster/Palmdale, Novato, Palm Springs, Poway, Pittsburg, Salinas, Santa Rosa, Tracy, Woodland.