Both the varsity boys and girls basketball teams christened the gym with wins, opening the Mountain Valley League 2012-13 season by beating the Tioga Timberwolves.
Dragons junior point guard Jordan Thornton said that the boys’ 62-18 win over Tioga was exhilarating, if for no other reason than it gave him the chance to play in front of a home crowd.
“We’ve waited so long for this,” Thornton said. “This is going to build so much more school culture than we’ve had in a long time. We’re going to have a lot more teams wanting to play us, and we’re going to play a lot better teams.”
Before this year, the Dragons used the existing New Jerusalem gym for practice, but all games were off campus.
Now, the 10,000-square-foot gym is ready to host practices and games for Delta Charter and New Jerusalem, even though it won’t be complete for about another month.
New Jerusalem Superintendent David Thoming said that work on the façade and lobby, which will face Koster Road, was delayed in order to get the gymnasium ready for basketball season.
Plywood panels seal off areas still under construction, but the most important part of the gym — the space for competition — is complete.
The Dragons’ logo is painted at mid-court, and murals depict the Dragons on the north wall, and the Falcons, the New Jerusalem mascot, on the south wall.
It’s a far cry from last year, when the basketball teams, including the defending MVL champion boys team, played home games at Stribley Recreation Center in Stockton or Mossdale Elementary School in Lathrop.
Sophomore point guard Deandre Ragsdale said that the players were tired of the commute, but didn’t get a full appreciation for their new gym until they set foot inside.
“When we came here it was like, ‘Wow!’ It looks so beautiful,” Ragsdale said. “The way they put up the elementary school and high school names up there. This gym will change the school’s tradition.”
New face of a rural campus
The gymnasium marks a new chapter in the history of the rural campus.
Two distinct educational entities occupy the campus at South Koster and Durham Ferry roads southeast of Tracy.
New Jerusalem School has 244 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and 12-year-old Delta Charter School has 701 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Of the 500 high school students at Delta Charter, 100 take courses exclusively over the Internet.
“Delta Charter, when it opened, was designed to be an all-online high school,” Thoming said. “It’s now morphed into a site-based program.
It feels like a small high school now.”
The $2.5 million gymnasium was included in a $6.5 million campus upgrade that also features a 6,000-square-foot building with an administration office and two classrooms, two new portable buildings, and landscaping to tie it all in with the old campus and 15 existing portable buildings.
The district paid for the project with a $5 million federal Qualified School Construction Bond. It’s a 15-year loan at 2-percent interest made through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The district also received $1.2 million from state building grants for charter schools, and the rest of the money came from the district’s own reserves.
New centerpiece for athletics
The gymnasium is also the centerpiece of an athletics program that wasn’t in the original plan for Delta Charter School. The school entered the California Interscholastic Federation in spring 2009 with its inaugural baseball team.
New Jerusalem physical education teacher Julia Ulrich then became Delta Charter’s new athletic director, and the school has since added boys and girls basketball, along with soccer and girls volleyball.
“I never thought five years ago when we started CIF sports that we would be here with our own gym today. It’s an awesome feeling,” Ulrich said. “We have so many different options now that we didn’t have before. Tournaments were never an option. Now they can be.”
She hopes the gym draws bigger crowds to Dragons sporting events. The gym seats 545 spectators in the bleachers. The gym also has room for about 1,400 on the floor, which Thoming expects will be sufficient for graduation ceremonies.
Still to come at the athletic facility are a lobby, snack bar and media room that will house audio and video equipment for the gym and feed into a large video screen that will display student-produced videos and graphics.
“We’re talking about how, as the (players) are announced, we can show their pictures and stats,” Ulrich said. “I don’t know how far out that is, but it’s in the plan.”
Thoming expects work to be complete in January, and in March it will be dedicated as the Teranishi Events Center in honor of the late George and Mei Teranishi, who owned the market and gas station at the corner of Highway 33 and Durham Ferry Road and supported youth and sports programs in their community.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.