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For the students at Roseland University Prep, Monday was the first day of school all over again — and not just because it was the end of Thanksgiving break.

It marked the first day of classes at the school’s long-awaited $17 million campus, quite a change from the “purple warehouse” about a mile to the north where its students have spent the past 13 years.

“It’s very exciting to finally see this come to fruition, but there’s nostalgia for the old building,” said Principal Sue Reese, who is in her fourth year at the high school’s helm. “It served us really well. It was our home for 13 years, so it’s like moving out of your first home into your nice, pretty, brand-new home, but you sort of miss your old home, too.”

Students and staff expressed similarly mixed emotions as they toured the two-story, 30,800-square-foot building at 1931 Biwana Drive, with its vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the elementary and middle school campuses next door. The new space comes with 17 classrooms, a library, art room, science classroom, science lab, large multipurpose room, offices and a courtyard.

Funding for the new campus arrived in pieces, including a $1 million grant from the Ernest L. and Ruth W. Finley Foundation on top of a $7 million state grant and a matching $7 million loan the Roseland School District took out from the California School Finance Authority.

Juniors Andrea Velazquez, 17, and Brenda Garcia, 16, toured the building with their advisory class Monday morning, while the underclassmen sat in on an assembly about the new property led by Reese.

“I feel weird,” said Velazquez, who wore a school jersey, and festive beads and a neckerchief in the school’s purple color for the occasion. “It doesn’t feel like home because, like, over there at the warehouse, it used to be no windows and no light, but we got used to it.

“Overall, it’s really beautiful, it just takes time (to get used to). Like, it was hard to get used to the warehouse, too, because we were always complaining about having no windows and how it was so stuffy, but now we’re complaining that it’s too open.”

Velazquez laughed and looked around, adding, “It’s like, do we really deserve this?”

After 11 years of teaching class on a blacktop, physical education teacher Robert DeMoss certainly believes they do.

“When I started, they told us it was going to be about two or three years before we moved, and it’s been almost 12,” he said with a chuckle. “So I’ve been waiting for a long time, that’s for sure.”

The move means he’ll now have access to amenities most other high schools take for granted: a gymnasium, a locker room, a grass field.

“It’s going to be phenomenal not only to have a gym, but just an area where they can move around freely — especially with the grass,” he said.

“Smelling grass for the first time in a long time is going to be refreshing.”

The old school building on Sebastopol Road will now be occupied by students in grades seven through 12 from Roseland Collegiate Prep, who were displaced from their campus when it was damaged by the Tubbs fire. Reese said they were expected to move into the “purple warehouse” by the end of next week.

Superintendent Amy Jones-Kerr first came to the district in 1997. In 2004 she became founding principal of Roseland University Prep, which was created to provide a high school environment for students in Roseland to make attending college the norm.

Since then, the high school has managed to achieve an average graduation rate of 95 percent. Of its 2016 graduating class, 94 percent are attending a two- or four-year university. She was named superintendent in 2014.

“This is just like absolutely amazing,” Jones-Kerr said, standing outside the new building Monday morning. “It is amazing to see these happy faces. I heard when some of (the kids) were walking up this morning, they were cheering. — It’s a really happy time for our students to have a really beautiful building that they absolutely deserve.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

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