After nearly two years of renovations, a modernization effort for Early College High School is complete.
In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning on the first day of the new school year at the Costa Mesa campus, parents, students and officials of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District celebrated the estimated $6.8-million project that included installing new cooling and heating units, electrical systems, offices, ceilings, carpets, furniture and fencing.
A new lunch shelter also was erected, as were various measures to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Last year, the district installed a street-facing monument sign for the school, which has helped give it a stronger identity, officials said.
"It instills pride in all of the people who are here at Early College High School," district trustee Vicki Snell said.
She called the campus "new and improved and beautiful."
Early College, which enables students to earn their diplomas while attaining college credits, was established in 2006. It eventually settled in the old Mesa Verde Elementary School campus on East Mesa Verde Drive.
This fall, the campus has about 200 students in grades nine through 12.
The modernization effort began in December 2015 with the goal of making the former elementary school site up to par for older — and taller — students. The original announced budget of $4 million grew to $6.8 million as the project's scope was increased to include more walkways, brick pavers, landscaping, artificial turf and other site work, according to district spokeswoman Annette Franco.
Principal Dave Martinez said the district's goal has been to give Early College a small-college feel, down to its landscaping choices of decomposed granite and separation of students into "houses" that have friendly competitions.
Martinez also announced a new campus tradition Wednesday: ringing a cowbell on the first and last day of school. It will be permanently displayed on campus.