The gleaming white and tan walls are up. The classrooms are complete. Huge earth-churning machines are out back, creating recreational fields where students will be able to play sports this fall.
The new Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City is the culmination of nearly two years of work. The construction project, which broke ground in October 2008, is about 92 percent complete and the school should be finished in time for a September opening, Chris Becica, the Greyhawk senior project manager, said during a site tour last week.
The two-story, 190,400-square-foot building will house a magnet school for students interested in environmental science and engineering, Principal James Reina said. The high school is working with Richard Stockton College to develop its environmental curriculum. The engineering curriculum will be Project Lead the Way, administered through Rowan University.
"Our thing is if the kids (have) an interest in environmental science or engineering, we want to give them the tools to separate themselves," Reina said. "Right in high school, we want to prepare them not only for college but for their careers."
The new high school is being built to alleviate overcrowding at Oakcrest and Absegami high schools, said Steven Ciccariello, the interim superintendent of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District. The $81.7 million project was approved by district voters in 2007, and about two-thirds of the work is funded by the New Jersey School Development Authority.
"It's extremely exciting," Ciccariello said. "There's been a tremendous amount of work that has gone on to get us to where we are."
Cedar Creek High School takes its name from dozens of small tributaries in the Pine Barrens, Reina said. The building has 24 classrooms, six science labs, art, music and special education rooms, a media center and performing arts center. The school has a geothermal heating and cooling system and the entire building uses motion-sensitive lighting to conserve energy, Reina said. Outside there will be a football field, two soccer fields, and separate fields dedicated to field hockey, baseball and softball.
The school's entering classes will comprise 415 ninth- and 10th-graders from Egg Harbor City, Mullica Township, Port Republic and the Green Bank section of Washington Township, Burlington County. New students will be added each year. The building's capacity is about 1,000 students.
Students from the Laureldale section of Hamilton Township and the Cologne and South Egg Harbor section of Galloway Township have the option of attending the new school or going to Oakcrest or Absegami high schools. Students from any part of those townships also can attend Cedar Creek High School if they wish to focus on environmental science and engineering, Reina said.
The idea of building a new school on 60 acres of woods came from former Superintendent Adam Pfeffer, who led the district from 1995 until his retirement March 1.
Pfeffer worked hard on the planning stages as far back as the early 2000s, and he did everything to "get it off the ground," Ciccariello said. Pfeffer died May 23 and the new high school's performing arts center will be named after him.
At the height of construction, the new high school generated 200 jobs.
Project Manager Becica said about 100 workers are still on site and the portions of the building that still need to be finished include the gym and auxiliary gym, the student commons, the performing arts center and cafeteria.
Reina said he is thankful to have the opportunity to open a new high school and he noted dozens of people have driven by the front gates to take a look at the construction. "Our vision is to build a school that is integrated fully, with the cooperation of the community," he said.
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