Officials from the William S. Hart Union High School District and Castaic High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday in celebration of its impending grand opening.
Held in the school’s library — with bookshelves yet to be filled, ceiling panels awaiting placement but scenic views of the Santa Clarita Valley readily available — multiple officials discussed the lengthy process that precipitated the school’s first day of class less than a week away.
“As we all know, it has been a longtime coming,” said Jessica Chambers, president of the Castaic Area Town Council. “I was actually supposed to be one of the early classes that graduated, but I am pleased to say that my children will be able to come to such a great, forward-thinking school.”
Hart District Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht, flanked by balloons and spirit banners decorated in the school’s official colors of charcoal gray, white and burnt orange, called the event a proud moment for her and the district in front of the 100 or so attendees.
“You look at this campus and facility, and see the things that it offers … you will know that students have the opportunity to the utmost to thrive, to reach their potential, at their full capacities,” said Hart District board President Bob Jensen. “It’s a challenging process to build a school that will have this kind of impact.”
When the campus opens for the first time next week — two and a half years after ground had first broke on the construction portion of the project — Castaic High’s first principal, Melanie Hagman, will welcome in approximately 350 ninth-graders for the school’s inaugural class.
The anticipated capacity for the school is 2,600 students, and the campus sits on 58 acres of land. The contract awarded for the construction of the school was $126.2 million, which included a 450-seat performing arts center, specialized classrooms for career pathways programs and approximately 250,000 square feet of school and classroom space. Additionally, the school features a number of athletic fields and facilities, including one of the newest and largest gyms in the Hart District.
“(Students) will be able to access career pathways, including welding, medical assisting and video production,” said Hagman. “They will access college classes through College of the Canyons, which minimally yield one year of college credits. They will access athletics, performing groups and ASB. What an amazing opportunity for all of our students coming here.”
Hagman said students would be coming not only from the Castaic Union School District, but also from area charter schools and private schools, as well as the Antelope Valley, Bakersfield and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Hart District governing board member Steve Sturgeon has been working on the project since its inception, and said that after analyzing the 11 possible sites over the last two decades, and creating the largest dirt moving project in Los Angeles County history, the school had become a “star-studded campus.”
“I’ve watched the tractors, Caterpillars and 150-average-on-site men every single day, working and moving ounces, pounds and cubic yards of dirt, equipment and facility day by day,” said Sturgeon. “I was criticized back in 2010, when we finally selected a site, after seven years of promising, for using the word momentous — I called it a ‘momentous occasion.’”
“I stopped using that word … until tonight,” said Sturgeon. “This is a momentous occasion.”
Following the ceremony, Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, 5th District County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook, Santa Clarita Councilman Bill Miranda, walked outside with Engbrecht and Hagman to cut the ribbon and open the school to the public.
Thursday is the first-ever registration day for the campus, which plans to open alongside other Hart District sites Aug. 13 for its first day of school.