EL SOBRANTE -- A long wait has ended for the students, administration and faculty of De Anza High School with the opening of a new $125 million campus.
The school's stakeholders held a celebration Saturday in the new gymnasium, along with alumni and other residents, followed by a tour of the building.
The new De Anza, named after the explorer who led the first Spanish expedition to the Bay Area, replaces a facility built in 1955 that was long considered inadequate, contributing to the school's reputation as a troubled campus.
Enrollment had bottomed out at 790 students by the time construction started in 2010, test scores had flat-lined and morale was low, according to Principal Robert Evans.
Now enrollment is up to 1,130, with a goal of reaching 1,200 to 1,300, and students are beginning to take grades and academics more seriously than before, Evans said.
"We're on the map now with the new campus," he said. "Our students are no longer seeking out private schools like Salesian and El Sobrante Christian."
Associated Student Body President Iris Wong agreed, saying she's has noticed a change in her classmates' attitudes from last year in the two weeks the school has been open.
"Everyone is alive, happy and excited about school," Wong said.
The new campus was in the planning stages for several years before construction began and was originally scheduled to be the first of the district's five comprehensive high schools to be replaced, according to school board President Madeline Kronenberg.
However, El Cerrito High was moved ahead of De Anza because its old building was determined to be at higher risk of collapse in an earthquake.
"You have waited for a long time, and now De Anza has become our district's crown jewel," Kronenberg told the 150 to 175 people in attendance at the gathering.
West Contra Costa has passed six construction bond measures in the past 15 years that have created about $1.2 billion in bonding capacity and is in the middle of a multidecade program to replace or remodel all of its more than 50 campuses.
Pinole Valley High, which opened in 1967, is the next high school on the list for a new campus.