New Highland High Dedicated; Old Bungalows Only a Memory

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kesha Eason remembers the teasing she and other Highland High School students endured while attending classes in "dusty and dirty" temporary bungalows on the tennis courts at rival Quartz Hill High School.

"Now those kids are jealous of us--they wish they could be here," said the 16-year-old junior as she sat in the central courtyard of Highland's newly opened $30-million campus at 25th Street West and Avenue P-8 in Palmdale.

"Lots of them are trying to transfer here," said Kesha's friend, junior Anne Largent. "They see this campus and go 'Wow!' "

Lots of people were saying "wow" Saturday as about 300 parents, teachers, students and public officials, including Sen. John Seymour, gathered to dedicate the new campus, which opened in September.

Highland is yet another sign of the skyrocketing population growth in the Antelope Valley. The population of Palmdale, for example, rose 460% to 68,842 over the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The district's burgeoning student population, among the fastest growing in the state, forced officials to open Highland and Littlerock High School in temporary quarters two years ago, said Supt. Kenneth W. Brummel of the Antelope Valley Union High School District.

"Four years ago, when I started in this district, we had 8,000 students," Brummel said. "Today, we have 12,000, and next year, we expect 1,500 more. We need a new high school every 18 months."

The district now has five traditional high schools and a continuation school, Brummel said, and plans to open a new high school in 1993 and another in 1994 "just to keep up."

The district built the Highland and Littlerock campuses with $60 million from state education bonds.

"Because of our exponential growth, we were able to get $60 million out of a state fund totaling $800 million," Brummel said.

Highland exemplifies that growth. In fall 1989, about 500 freshmen began classes in portable classrooms. The next year, their numbers doubled. Highland's new campus has already reached capacity with about 2,000 students, said Principal Bobby Loughridge.

"Next year," Loughridge added, "we expect to have about 3,000. We'll be overcrowded in only our second year."

During an hourlong ceremony, Seymour, who has known Brummel since both were public officials in Orange County, presented the school with a flag that had flown over the Capitol, extolled the value of education and congratulated the Bulldogs' 7-1 football team on its successful season.

Highland teachers and students described the new school as "exciting" but confessed an odd nostalgia for their old temporary quarters.

"We didn't have upperclassmen to push us around," Eason said. "We developed our school spirit in those temps."

The bungalows were rickety, and students and teachers recalled how dust storms would force sand through every crevice, coating their desks with dirt. But the adverse conditions promoted school unity, said Carolyn Lundie, 39, a physical science teacher.

"We didn't even have handles for the doors when I started. We had some rough times back in those temporaries," Lundie said. "There was a crisis every day. But we had developed a camaraderie that few schools have ever had."

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