School namesake John Kimball, 86 — a physician in Tracy for 53 years and longtime volunteer doctor for the Tracy High School football team — told incoming sophomores and freshmen that as students of the first graduating classes, they’re responsible for shaping the school’s culture and establishing traditions and expectations for future students.
“You do have a huge advantage ahead of you, but there’s a catch … you are the ones that are going to set a standard,” he exhorted them after an introduction from Kimball principal Cheryl Dominichelli.
Several students agreed that being part of the school’s first graduating class made them feel purposeful.
“It’s pretty exciting to think that what we do could change the culture here,” said Catrina Banti, a 15-year-old sophomore who spent her freshman year at West High. “So far, this has been pretty cool.”
Aside from traffic jam getting to school, the only noteworthy glitch came when Dominichelli had to use a police car bullhorn to address students instead of the school’s public address system, which failed to work.
Kimball High is the third comprehensive high school in the Tracy Unified School District, the fifth counting the district’s two charter schools. The last high school built was West High, which opened in 1993.
The school’s curriculum has four focuses for students: Health sciences; mass communications and multimedia; architecture, construction and interior design; and something called New American High School with a focus on things like environmental science and global studies.
Called “pathways,” the focuses are a lot like the academies at Tracy and West high schools, only they apply to the entire student body.
Kimball lies off of Jaguar Run, a new side street named for the school’s mascot by 11th Street and Lammers Road. The campus is still under construction and will be for another school year or so as workers finish up the gymnasiums, the performing arts center and the sports fields.
For about a decade, the 16,500-student school district has planned to build a third high school to accommodate growth within the city of 81,000, but also from Mountain House.
Trustees agreed to go ahead and build a new high school four years ago. Construction on the $62 million campus started in 2008.
Once construction wraps up, the high school’s capacity will bump up to 2,400 students. About 600 students from Tracy High will now attend Kimball. The shift will ease overcrowding at the older school, and help make room for all the renovations and reconstruction at Tracy High, district officials said.
After his brief pep talk today, Kimball said the he was both humbled and flattered at having Tracy’s newest high school named for him — an honor normally bestowed posthumously.
Seeing a high school built in his name reinforces his love for the community he’s called home for more than a half-century, Kimball said.
“It’s been a good 50 years,” he said, seated next to his wife, Atha Kimball. “Tracy has been good to our family.”
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