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New Science and Language Academy Unveiled in San Bernardino

The Norton Science and Language Academy, a $40 million project occupying 18 acres, will be a Spanish-English dual immersion charter school with a secondary program that includes courses in coding.

San Bernardino, Calif.
(TNS) — A distinct new-campus smell now emanates from Waterman Avenue and Valley Street in San Bernardino.

What once was a deserted grassy field on the eastside of town is where hundreds of students will report next week for their first day at the new Norton Science and Language Academy.

The Lewis Center for Educational Research unveiled the 18-acre campus Thursday, Sept. 2, more than a year and a half after city leaders gave the $40 million project their blessing.

"It's just surreal, really," said Lisa Lamb, Lewis Center president and CEO. "I don't know how else to describe it. It feels like a dream realized. Now I drive around and I look at our neighborhood and I pray about the lives we're going to change."

A Spanish-English dual immersion charter school, Norton Science and Language Academy will have ninth-graders for the first time when school returns Tuesday, Sept. 7. At full build-out, the institution will serve up to 1,500 students, with a secondary program that includes courses in Spanish, Mandarin, American Sign Language and coding.

Teens Kaedyn Hill, Alexandra Sunny, Janyse Juarez and Ashley Rodriguez, all in student government polos during Thursday's festivities, embraced the idea of establishing high school traditions and one day being a part of Norton's first graduating class.

Principal Fausto Barragan too relished christening a new campus.

"An environment impacts learning," he said. "When students are able to access technology, when they're able to access comfortable environments, they're able to settle in better to instruction. (This also applies to) our teachers, especially here at Norton. As principal, I've seen our teachers really value their classroom environments and use their environments for learning, where meaningful content is placed all over the room.

"This new environment will afford us new opportunities to expand our learning."

About a mile from the former school site on Central Avenue, the new campus has a college feel, featuring first- and second-story classrooms for grades TK-12, a multipurpose room, a media center where students can connect directly with NASA missions, science labs, athletic fields and playgrounds.

A gymnasium is planned, with a groundbreaking scheduled for November.

The new county preschool building also is bound for the site.

"Our old campus was very sweet," Lamb said. "We were the rose that grew from concrete. We were doing amazing things in buildings nobody could see, nobody cared about. It was old, it was crumbling. We planted plants strategically so it looked like something. Our teachers decorated and made amazing classrooms, but really it was falling apart.

"It seems we did so much there with so little," Lamb added, "and now we have this beautiful facility. There's no obstacle for us."

©2021 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.