First in their class
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Aug 22, 2014 | 2998 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mountain House High School opens
On the opening day at Mountain House High School on Wednesday, ninth-graders Tatynana  Jackson, Vince Valdez and Arielle Tala compared class schedules in the lobby before their first day at the new school. Former Bethany School students, the three classmates said they were excited to go to a new high school. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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First day at Altamont School
Altamont School teacher Cathy Kuczma goes over a math lesson with her first-graders on the first day of classes at Altamont School, which opened its doors to students on Wednesday.  Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Holding a metal grater in the air, culinary arts teacher Margaret Drummond led a friendly competition among her first students on the first day of classes at Mountain House High School.

Taking items out of a towel-covered basket, she challenged her first-period class Wednesday to identify basic kitchen tools, such as a cutting board, an apron and a spatula. It was her way of breaking the ice as the freshmen and sophomores settled in at the community’s first high school.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “The very first student stuck his hand out to say hi to me. That was a nice way to start my day.”

The former principal of a K-5 school in Newman, Drummond said she had returned to the classroom after a 12-year absence because she wanted to be a part of Mountain House High.

“Who wouldn’t want to come to a new high school,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

That same sense of excitement was visible among the students and staff of the community’s first high school, located at 1090 S. Central Parkway.

Students walking to their first classes on the campus wore broad smiles as they hurried along the hallways, bumping into former elementary and high school classmates.

“I like it,” Tanzania Burch, a sophomore, said. “It’s new. I have a lot of friends here. I went to Tracy High School (last year), and I decided over the summer to come here for a new start. Mountain House High is more updated and it has a greater atmosphere for learning.”

Standing in the roomy quad behind the twin-tower administration building, athletic director LeVinia Woods watched as students gathered before their next class.

“I get goose bumps watching them,” she said. “They got here early, they’re excited. I’ve been doing this for seven years, and it feels like my first day. It’s all new to me, too.”

The new high school welcomed more than 530 students on a nearly flawless first day, according to Principal Ben Fobert.

“It’s been a very long time coming,” he said. “The curriculum program is humming, kids are in classes, Chromebooks are open, teachers are teaching – it’s nice to finally be — after a year without kids. It’s nice to see kids all over this campus.”

Fobert said he had been nervous leading up to the school’s opening day, but not anymore.

“As I closed my computer at 1:30 in the morning this morning to go to bed, I was ready,” he said. “We’ve been looking forward to this day.”

The biggest problem all day was having too few orange traffic cones to block off lanes, Fobert joked.

Also opening for the first time in Mountain House on Wednesday was Altamont School, 452 W. St. Francis St., which has 625 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade.

During assemblies in the multipurpose room, Altamont School Principal James Yeager led students in cheering, “Panther Pride!”

“Smooth first day,” he said. “It went beyond our expectations.”

While students stood in the quad waiting for their turn to go into the cafeteria for lunch, Yeager asked them if they were having a good day.

“It’s awesome,” said fourth-grader Devlin. “I love the Altamont.”

Superintendent Kirk Nicholas said it was a smooth start to the first day of school across the district. He described the atmosphere at Altamont as that of a great family gathering as parents expressed excitement about having their own village school. Altamont is the fifth K-8 school to open in Lammersville Unified School District, and the fourth within Mountain House.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at or 830-2445.

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