Name nod clouds planned groundbreaking for Grand Terrace campus
GRAND TERRACE - Decades after the initial rumblings about a planned high school in Grand Terrace, the moment of truth finally has arrived.
The Colton Joint Unified School District plans to host a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday for the $75 million campus to be built at Taylor and Main streets.
It is slated to open in fall 2011.
"It's a dream come true to be a part of this high school really coming together," said nine-year trustee Kent Taylor, a Grand Terrace resident.
"If you asked the community members, they'd say, 'The one thing you can do is get that high school done.' "
The district is getting it done, but not without controversy.
The Colton Joint Unified School District plans to host a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday for the planned Ray Abril High School, shown here in an artist's rendering, in Grand Terrace.
On March 12, the school board voted 5-1 to name the campus Ray Abril High School, after a former trustee who served for 28 years.
That decision came over the objections of some residents who strongly favored the name Grand Terrace High School.
The district asked residents for input.
Of the 365 nominations received, 124 favored Grand Terrace High. Ray Abril or Ray Abril Jr. received 17 votes.
Taylor said those tallies don't reflect the informal votes he and other board members received from people on the street.
Residents opposed to the board's action said they feel like they were asked to weigh in but then ignored.
Taylor said the call for suggestions was important for gathering names, so that the district could see what ideas were out there.
He voted for Abril because he felt the school should be named for a district elder who made many contributions, Taylor said.
Now, it's time to unite and look ahead at what the school will mean to students, he said.
That won't be easy for some.
Joan Winchester, who has lived in Grand Terrace since 1973, said she and other residents plan to keep fighting.
It's not one person who makes Grand Terrace but the community of volunteers willing to pitch in without accolades, she said.
"We deserve to have our high school named Grand Terrace," Winchester said. "It's unconscionable that they would do something like this."
Abril said he did not lobby for the recognition but is grateful for it.
"It's just a true honor to have that happen to an individual such as I," he said. "It's an honor for the entire Abril family."
The 76-year-old south Colton native still lives in the home his father bought in 1934.
The Colton High alumnus, whose wife, Hortensia, died about five months ago, was elected to the school board in 1973.
He served as president six years and clerk 13 years.
He retired in 2001.
Of the discord over the naming, he said he respects the board's decision.
Roy Nix, a longtime school volunteer and 42-year Grand Terrace resident, said he has been friends with Abril for 40 years.
With any other school, Nix said he could support honoring Abril, but the city's first high school should be named Grand Terrace because it means so much to sports teams and the students, he said.
He said he plans to stay home Saturday.
"The best message we can give them is to boycott," Nix said.
"There is no question they can change it, but we can't make them change it."
San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry and the Grand Terrace City Council sent letters to the school board asking that they reconsider.
Mayor Maryetta Ferre, who called Abril "a really fine man," said she has heard from several people upset about the naming.
Still, the groundbreaking is cause to celebrate, Ferre said.
"It's a joyous occasion," she said. "It's taken a very long time to get to this moment."
Reach Melanie C. Johnson at 951-368-9489 or mjohnson@PE.com
The Colton Joint Unified School District will break ground in Grand Terrace for its third comprehensive high school, to be named for Ray Abril Jr., a 28-year school board veteran.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Main Street, east of Taylor Street