Patterson High celebrates its age, a face-lift

naustin@modbee.comDecember 13, 2013 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin

— Patterson school leaders of all ages came to the town’s century-old high school campus to admire its makeover and celebrate its history this week.

“I think it’s a pretty cool school,” said Apricot Valley Elementary School student Francisco Ortiz, sitting with Apricot Valley student body President Sariah Perez and Vice President Ayana Guardado. “It’s big. I could get lost,” Ayana said.

Student leaders from local elementary schools joined high school staff and community leaders for speeches and a ribbon-cutting led by Patterson Joint Unified School District Superintendent Phil Alfano on Tuesday. The ceremony commemorated $21.5 million in modernization projects in the district and kicked off a two-year Patterson High centennial celebration.

High school student body President Zantino Bustos said the renovated campus, with its light and airy, modernized classrooms and one new wing, seems far larger. The historic campus feels like a new school, he said, with impressive touches like a tile mural embedded in the floor of the modernized administrative building.

“It brings a sense of pride to all the students,” Bustos said. “It took us 100 years, in my opinion, to get this school right.”

Leading a tour of the campus, senior Elizabeth Garcia said she likes the spaciousness. “It’s so beautiful. A lot has changed – it felt smaller,” she said.

Debbie Reichmuth, a secretary at the school, said the modernization “feels like a fresh start, a renewal.” The 1969 grad added, “I went here when it looked like the White House.”

That would be the first Patterson High, a grand, 11-room schoolhouse with high ceilings, solid oak doors and columns across a facade framed by two palm trees, said historian Carol Scoles. The school was built with a $55,000 bond, on land donated by T.W. Patterson in 1914. The roughly 250 high school students then attended class at Las Palmas School across the street until the new campus was finished in 1915.

A 1976 makeover brought down that imposing edifice. But the campus is still rich with tradition, Scoles said. “Alumni come back to become teachers. There’s more than one generation here,” she said.

The earlier generation may have recalled the 1976 redo while maneuvering around construction zones for this one.

Principal Dave Stubbs compared school-term building challenges to those of a home remodel – “times 2,000.” But, he added, “We couldn’t be happier with the result.”

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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