The brand-new J-Wing at Cedar Ridge High School.

The ribbon has been cut, and the sparkling new addition at Cedar Ridge High School is finally finished. All that’s needed to make the building complete is students. Whenever it is deemed safe enough for high school students to resume in-person classes, the J-Wing will make for an awesome “welcome back” gift. 

“There are a lot of feelings and emotions that went into making this project come to life,” said Cedar Ridge High School Principal Dr. Carlos Ramirez. “First, would be the communities that provided input: teachers, staff, students, parents, community members. It started with a central question: How can we make this new space an environment where students feel safe to be creative and innovative, and to think outside the box. I want to thank the tax payers for supporting this project. Without their support we would not be here.”

Ramirez was on hand to cut the ribbon with Orange County Schools Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder, and School Board Chair Hillary MacKenzie. Ramirez, along with other school staff and students, offered small group tours of the building. 

The expansion project for Cedar Ridge was approved in March 2018. Construction began in July 2019. The addition will allow capacity at the high school to grow from 1,050 to 1,500 students. 

“I appreciate the forward thinking in building this space before students could be here,” Ramirez added. “Sometimes you have communities that are forced to build because they’re bursting at the seams. This community thought about the future plan, and now we’re ready for students.”

The building offers an abundance of natural light and technology. Nearly every piece of furniture is mobile and can be refigured, or folded, or stacked to allow for easy storage. There are 24 teaching ‘stations’ that are arranged around the centerpiece of the building, a massive seating area in the learning commons. Wood terraced seating can hold up to 100 students (post Covid). A massive 30-foot-tall white board offers plenty of visual space for teaching. 

“There are no words,” said Superintendent Felder. “I am just blown away by this addition. Everything that was planned for, hoped for, wished for, dreamed for and then some. I’m excited for our students, I’m excited for our staff, and I’m excited for the community and the great work that’s going to happen here. Just over the moon.”

Flexibility is key in the J-Wing, with plenty of tables and chairs that can be rearranged for small or larger group lessons. There are even counters just outside some of the classrooms for students to hold class discussions. Windows allow the teachers to monitor the counter meetings.

“The new wing of Cedar Ridge High is open and bright and everything is state-of-the-art,” said School Board Chair Hillary MacKenzie. “It shines as a symbol of hope through this difficult period of time and reminds us of our bright future together. It’s a promise of learning and community building that will happen soon in the space.”

There are small meetings rooms on each level, several with large windows. The variety of classroom types were designed to enhance different learning and teaching styles.

Safety was also on the minds of the designers. A fire zone was added in the parking area to the left of the buildings. Also onsite is a small building containing firefighting equipment and materials. 

“I’m delighted to see this project come into fruition,” said Board of Orange County Commissioner Brenda Stephens. “It has taken a long time, a lot of planning and a lot of work. And it was absolutely worth it.”