New Ernest McBride High School to Emphasize Math, Science Through Innovative Academies


Photos by Dennis Dean

The line to preview Long Beach’s first new high school in nearly 20 years snaked down the stairs from the state-of-the-art library, out across the freshly minted front walkup and halfway down the open grass area along Parkcrest Street.

More than 1000 students, parents, teachers and neighbors stood patiently outside of Ernest S. McBride Senior High School Tuesday evening for the first public glimpse of the $75 million campus as District officials attempted to reshuffle their guided tours to accommodate the unexpected turnout.

The school, built with Measure K funds on the former site of DeMille Middle School, is the first of several small high schools that the District is constructing to address the area’s educational needs. Unlike Long Beach Unified’s six comprehensive high schools that serve up to 5000 students each, McBride is comprised of three Career Technical Education academies that will offer a combination of college prep curriculum and career pathway courses for a much smaller number of students.

mcbridepreview10In its first year, McBride will have just 210 freshman students, eventually building up to a maximum of 1080 students in four grades studying either engineering, health/medical or legal service/forensics.

“The nice part about coming to McBride is that students are going to have a chance to have linked learning connection which takes the traditional core college prep curriculum and meshes them with a career pathway of their interest,” said McBride Principal Steve Rockenbach, a former counselor and Assistant Principal at Jordan High School. “So they’re getting the best of both worlds: they’re getting a chance to take the core high level courses and mesh it with the field of study.”

In McBride’s 43 classrooms, Rockenbach says students will have access to state-of-the-art technology used in their chosen industry: CNC machines for engineering students, a faux hospital wing for medical students and a CSI lab with all the same professional equipment as the Long Beach Police Department. Each student will also receive an iPad for them to take home and the entire campus is outfitted with wifi access.

The new high school’s engineering and health/medical CTEs are modeled directly from one of the District’s most successful small high schools, the California Academy of Math and Science, located on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. CAMS utilizes resources from the adjoining college to match students with classes, teachers and professionals in their industry of choice.


Principal Steve Rockenbach speaks to parents, students and residents during the open house Tuesday. 

“Part of the reason McBride is located here is because ultimately we hope to have it where students can take college classes for high school credit,” said Pete Davis, LBUSD’s Assistant Superintendent. “Right outside here, there is one bus route to LBCC and one to Cal State Long Beach. Since this the first local high school with a forensics track, we are also going to connect that pathway with LBCC and other nearby college programs in that field.”

Standing in line with his parents for McBride’s open house this week was 14 year-old Eduardo Herrera, who is one of the small number of freshmen starting at the school in the fall. A recent graduate of Hudson K-8–where he was in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program–the Westside resident applied last year for a spot in McBride’s school’s engineering academy, eschewing other options like Lakewood and CAMS for the District’s newest school.

“I just wanted to get the best education I can get for myself so that’s why I applied here because it’s a new school and they have a dedicated pathway for engineering,” Herrera said. “I wanted to try something new instead of going where everybody else has already gone.”

The new campus was designed through collaboration between community members, representatives from the engineering, medical and forensics fields, college professors as well as District teachers and officials. Large roll-up doors on bottom-floor classrooms allow equipment to be moved in and out quickly and some classrooms are located off of a pod-like communal area that looks more like a study room on a college campus than a high school.

“I’m looking forward to the hands-on experience,” said Herrera. “I heard there’s going to be a lot of collaboration between the students and faculty, so it sounds like a good mix of everything.”

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.