MERCED — With former trustees, superintendents, elected officials, dignitaries and alumni looking on, the new El Capitan High School was dedicated Tuesday morning in an hour-long ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Dedication of the $98 million school that opens to students next Monday marks the end of a 10-year process.
Former Trustee Dave Olsen, who moved to Louisville, Colo., in March, returned to be part of the historic occasion.
"It's just a thrill," Olsen said. "It is so high-tech. It's certainly something Merced can be proud of. It's certainly been a good decision in my mind. It's a great 21st century design and technology."
Olsen, a trustee from 1983 to 2007, said the new school was on people's minds for more than a decade. He said trustees looked at a half-dozen building sites, most in the Bellevue Ranch area, before picking the present one.
Olsen and former Trustees Bob Weimer, Tim O'Neill and John Pedrozo, now a county supervisor, attended the dedication along with former Merced Union High School District Superintendents Bill Tilley and Bob Fore.
District Superintendent Scott Scambray led El Capitan High cheerleaders in their first official cheer routine, spelling out the letters of Gauchos, the school's mascot.
"It was a long time coming," Scambray said. "There was a lot of excitement and it was neat."
Mike Bik, a graduate of the last El Capitan High graduating class in 1962, said about 25 alumni from the first school attended the dedication. El Capitan High was renamed Merced High School 50 years ago.
"El Capitan alumni waited 50 years for this day," Bik said.
Former Trustee Tim O'Neill, who served on the board from 2004-11, said that 20 years from now, people will look back on the dedication and be grateful.
When he became a trustee, O'Neill said they had already started planning for the new school.
While conceding it was a tough decision to move ahead with the project in the midst of a recession, O'Neill said it was a perfect time to do it, with $35 million in state money available, and labor and materials as cheap as they would ever be.
Trustee Dora Crane said she was happy to be a part of history and said Tuesday's ceremony was upbeat.
"It was a wonderful day," Crane said. "The place is beautiful and it will be a shining star for our community. It's a great start to the opening of the 2013-2014 school year."
Fore, who served as high school district superintendent from 2003 to 2008 before retiring, said it was great to be part of the team that created such a magnificent facility.
Trustee Dave Honey said El Capitan High School, near North G Street and Farmland Avenue, looks more like a college.
"It's so big and beautiful," Honey said. "It is a beautiful structure and will take care of the needs of a growing population for a long, long time. We have room to grow for years and years. This thing will last forever."
'No regrets at all'
Board President Ida Johnson said the outpouring of support from the community for the opening of El Capitan has been amazing. She said she was the deciding vote several years ago that set the school's construction in motion.
"I have no regrets at all," Johnson said. "There was some pressure not to build it, but the community will see we made the best decision."
Weimer, a Livingston farmer who served 20 years on the high school district board, said the high-tech innovative nature of the campus is a move into the future.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At A Glance
COST: $98 million
LOCATION: North G Street, Farmland Avenue, Merced
FEATURES: Nine buildings, including classrooms, a theater, gymnasium, administration, and agriculture wings
SUPPORT STAFF: 24 part-time and full-time classified employees