first day cedar creek

The cafeteria was crowded at Cedar Creek High School on Tuesday as the school in Egg Harbor City opened for the first time with a full complement of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Danny Drake

EGG HARBOR CITY — Classrooms were filled, the hallways were buzzing and there were no empty tables in the cafeteria at the Cedar Creek High School on Tuesday as the school opened for the 2012-13 school year with a full complement of 865 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and its first class of seniors.

An estimated 250 new freshmen, the largest freshman class so far, brings the school closer to its comfortable maximum of about 925 students, and Principal James Reina said it is a testament to the good reputation the new school has built.

“The magnet programs are at capacity this year,” he said. “And we’ve had more students come in from the parochial schools.”

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The $81.7 million school on 66 acres off Route 50 opened in September 2010 with 436 students in grades nine and ten as part of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional School district. It serves as the resident high school for students living in Egg Harbor City, Mullica Township, Port Republic and Green Bank in Washington Township, Burlington County.

The district also includes Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing and Absegami High School in Galloway Township, though students in the far western sections of Galloway and Hamilton Townships can also opt for Cedar Creek. All students in the district can apply to attend Cedar Creek’s two magnet academy programs in engineering and environmental sciences.

District Superintendent Steven Ciccariello said the third high school has benefited the entire district. Class sizes at Oakcrest and Absegami have dropped from 28 to 29 students to 24 or 25 students. Oakcrest’s total enrollment has dropped from a high of about 1,770 to about 1,180 students, and Absegami has dropped from 2,250 to about 1,650. Both schools got new computer labs and other repairs this year. Some teachers transferred to Cedar Creek to fill gaps, and new teachers were hired where needed.

Reina said Cedar Creek has added activities as the enrollment has increased and this year will have mock trial and academic teams among other extracurricular offerings. The school also received its National Honor Society charter this year.

“That’s what’s nice about being bigger now, we can offer more,” Reina said. “I’m really excited about that.”

Seniors who remember wandering almost empty hallways as the inaugural class of sophomores said they like the energy in the school this year.

“It does feel more full,” said senior Marc Boney, 16, of Mays Landing who chose to attend Cedar Creek for the opportunity to attend a brand new school. “The hallways are crowded now.”

Senior student athletes Nolan Seward, 16 of Mays Landing, Lasana Toure, 17, of Egg Harbor City and C.J. Sandfort, 17, of Galloway Township, said they hope the larger enrollment will also mean larger attendance at games.

“That first year it almost felt like a middle school because we were the oldest,” said Seward.

“Now it feels like a real high school,” Toure added.

The 165 seniors also know they are the first graduating class and like that distinction. A third lunch period has been added this year, and unlike previous years all the tables were full on Tuesday.

“The bus was jam-packed this morning,” said Kristine Miller, 17 of Laureldale in Hamilton Township, as she and friends ate lunch. “And last year this entire section of the cafeteria was empty.”

Still, she and her friends are happy with their decision to attend Cedar Creek. Miller said she came for the engineering academy since she plans to be an engineer.

“It was a good choice,” agreed classmate Alexa Lubrano, 17, of Nesco, Mullica Township, who transferred from St. Joseph High School as a sophomore.

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