By Nadra Nittle

LONG BEACH >> Entering high school is an event that gives most teens the jitters. But the freshmen entering Ernest McBride High School on Wednesday have all the more reason to be anxious.

McBride is Long Beach’s first new public high school since 1995, and the ninth-graders that will march through its doors are the first class to do so.

“They get a chance basically to start something special,” Principal Steve Rockenbach said.

That includes choosing the school colors and the mascot.

Although only time will tell how the first day of school unfolds, Rockenbach said that he doesn’t expect it to be extremely chaotic. After all, the ninth-graders — a class of about 210 — will be the only students at the school. Each subsequent year a new academic class will join them. By 2016, four academic classes will fill the school’s halls. Rather than exceed 3,000 students, as many Long Beach high schools do, McBride will limit its student body to just more than 1,000 students. Research shows that students perform better in smaller schools, said Vivien Hao, communications coordinator for LBUSD’s Measure K Bond Program.

“This is the first intentionally small high school that we’ve built, and it’s the first of several that are in the planning stages,” she said. “The communtiy really felt it was important because there has been a lot of data from throughout the United States that says small is better.”

The $75.5-million high school was built with Measure K funding. In 2008, voters approved Measure K, which made $1.2 billion from property taxes available to Long Beach Unified School District to construct, refurbish and repair local schools.

“I think the most exciting part of the campus are all of the green features, to see how much of the water is going to be recycled and the natural lighting,” Hao said.

To conserve water, the McBride campus will use reclaimed water for its irrigation of fields, planters and parkways, Hao said. Lighting controls have been implemented in the classrooms to conserve energy, and solar panels top the roofs of five buildings at the school. 

McBride’s green features aren’t all that make the school unique. McBride will start at 8:50 a.m., about an hour later than the other traditional public high schools in Long Beach.

Rockenbach said that the late start time has received mixed responses from parents and students.

“Some students were already at middle schools that had a late start time,” he said. “I haven’t gotten too many calls about that, and some of the students like having a little extra time to sleep.”

Contact Nadra Nittle at 562-499-1291.

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