The school campus at the end of Ursuline Road in northeast Santa Rosa emerged Wednesday from a year-long, student-free dormancy as more than 50 seventh graders began their middle school careers under the banner of Roseland Collegiate Prep.
The opening of the school, which eventually will cater to seventh through 12th graders, marked the first time students have roamed the halls and filled the classrooms since the Catholic all-girls Ursuline High School was shuttered in May 2011 after 130 years of educating high schoolers.
"I thought it was a good school when I took a field trip here," said Heidi Humphrey, who graduated from Roseland Elementary last spring. "My stepmom used to come here, to Ursuline, for high school and I like to follow in her footsteps."
The incoming RCP Rattlers were greeted with green balloons and mannequins dressed in various dress-approved outfits. Textbooks were distributed and lockers were assigned.
Roseland Collegiate Prep is one of two schools Roseland School District unveiled Wednesday. Across town on Burbank Avenue, the brand new Roseland Creek Elementary School opened its doors to more than 400 transitional kindergartners through sixth-graders.
But the opening of Roseland Collegiate Prep charter school marks the growing district's first move away from traditional boundaries that include neighborhoods along Sebastopol Road and West and Burbank avenues in south Santa Rosa.
"I heard they were going to do the very best to get kids through middle school and into college," said Richmine Sophy. "It inspired me to come here."
Teacher Vince Valladolid said he made the jump from Roseland Elementary to be one of just two RCP teachers this year.
"In other schools I can be in my class and everything else is taken care of, but here you have to be involved. But it's great; I love it," he said just after helping scores of students navigate their new locker combinations.
On Wednesday students spoke of being excited to be the first RCP class every step of the way -- the school will fill grades each year behind this original class of approximately 56 seventh-graders.
A flat screen TV in the school office displayed the names of every new Rattler and the elementary school they attended.
It also showed their anticipated high school graduation date and college graduation year: 2022.
During breaks they were encouraged to play foosball, air hockey and pingpong in a bright green rec room that until last year had housed Ursuline's chapel.
Where religious relics once adorned the walls, there now hang posters of vinyl records and stereo boxes, next to oversized, wire sunglasses.
On Wednesday, students lounged in black, cushioned chairs in the rec room and flipped through Teen Vogue.
After morning classes, the student body met in the gym to brainstorm new campus rules and mix with new classmates. But it was also a time to reiterate campus rules about respectful behavior and consequences.
"There was a mess at a lunch table and one of us had to clean up after you and that's never going to happen again," Principal Amy Jones Kerr told the assembled students. "This is our second home."
The new commute -- Ursuline Road is across the freeway and miles away from the Roseland District's traditional boundaries -- was a bonus, not a drawback, for Tianna Rodriguez, who attended Roseland Elementary School.