As trucks hauled steel beams onto the site in the background, members of the Orange County Board of Education, Orange County Board of Commissioners and Hillsborough Mayor Horace Johnson gathered to celebrate the newly begun construction of Cedar Ridge High School.
The school, which is expected to hold 1,000 students, is set to open in August 2002 and will be Orange County Schools' second high school.
Officials say the new high school is sorely needed to alleviate the overcrowding problem at Orange High School.
"Orange High School is now, and has been for the past four years, over capacity," said Randy Bridges, superintendent of Orange County Schools.
Bridges said the current enrollment at Orange High is about 1,500 and will likely reach 2,000 within the next few years if no measures are taken against overcrowding.
School board member Mike Parker said that although Orange High has been expanded in the past to accommodate more students, it is still overcrowded.
"When they change classes, it's tough sledding to get through the hallways," he said.
Parker said the $26 million needed for the new school's construction will come in part from an Orange County bond and the rest from "pay-as-you-go" funding within the school system's budget.
Parker said moving to a two-high-school system will be a big change for Orange County.
"We're trying very hard to offer the same programs they offer at the existing high school," he said. "I think you'd get a comparable education at either school."
School board member Robert Bateman said officials are considering offering a block-scheduling system at Cedar Ridge High, but many decisions are yet to be made.
Bridges said a high-school transition committee has been working out details for the past year and hopes to name the school's principal by July. The committee also will help determine what programs will be offered.
"There is room for some innovative programs and course offerings," Bridges said.
Bridges said the opening of a new high school promises to be beneficial for the system.
"We see this as a very good opportunity to better serve our students."
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