LONG BEACH - For a string of new high schools slated to open in the Long Beach Unified School District in the coming years, the motto is "smaller is better."
Next fall, the district will celebrate the grand unveiling of Ernest S. McBride Sr. High School, which is now being built on the 24-acre former site of DeMille Middle School at 7025 E. Parkcrest St. in East Long Beach. The school is now accepting applications for fall 2013.
McBride is the first of at least two new high schools expected to open over the next few years as part of the school district's Facility Master Plan, which is a long-term blueprint to address changing needs in Long Beach. The district is now considering small high schools at two other locations, one at the corner of Redondo Avenue and Hill Street and another on the site of the former Jordan Freshman Academy next to Jordan High in North Long Beach.
The schools are part of dozens of new construction and renovation projects funded through Measure K bonds. Approved by 71 percent of voters in 2008, Measure K provides $1.2 billion from property taxes for building, renovating and improving Long Beach schools, many of which are more than 50 years old. The funds are separate from the district's general budget and by law can only be used for school improvement projects.
The $75 million McBride High will open in fall 2013 for a class of 250 freshman.
McBride will eventually have an enrollment of about 1,000 students in grades 9-12, making it the smallest high school in the district.
Officials say the plan for smaller schools will help alleviate crowding in some of the largest high schools, which have up to 4,000 students.
"We're moving towards smaller high schools because research shows that students do better in smaller high school environments," said Vivien Hao, a project community coordinator for Measure K. "McBride will be a quintessential small high school."
McBride represents the changing face of Long Beach Unified as the district moves to close small elementary and K-8 schools in neighborhoods with low enrollment, while it revamps and builds schools in high density areas.
In the most recent proposed closure, the school board earlier this week voted to close Monroe K-8 in East Long Beach. With 655 students, Monroe is the smallest of Long Beach's 11 K-8 schools and has just 162 students from its immediate neighborhood, district officials said.
Among some of the bigger Measure K projects, the district this fall opened Nelson Academy, a $45 million middle school in Signal Hill, and is now in the planning stages for rebuilding Newcomb Academy, Roosevelt Elementary and Jordan High.
The largest of the Measure K projects, the $105 million massive renovation at Jordan will take place over the next few years in an attempt to transform the struggling high school into a flagship for the North Long Beach community.
For now, district officials are looking forward to the grand opening of McBride next year. At the McBride site on Thursday, construction was under way on the school's 43 classrooms in seven buildings.
The school will offer several innovative programs focusing on three fields: health/medical, law enforcement/legal services and engineering. Hao said McBride is designed to prepare top students for careers in high-demand fields.
To qualify for acceptance, students will be required to have earned a grade of "C" or better in algebra to assure they're prepared for more rigorous math courses, she said.
"Students will be prepared to go directly into a career or to college," Hao said.
McBride will be accepting students from Long Beach Unified, as well as students from surrounding school districts.
When it opens in fall 2013, McBride High will be the district's first new high school since Cabrillo High opened in 1995.
Officials anticipate a waiting list. Interested parents and students can go to lbschools.net/mcbride or call the superintendent's office at 562-997-8242.