BCHS veteran teachers have greeted students since its opening in 1991

Jason Aquino, Staff Writer

The most important part of a building is its foundation. The same theory applies to a school. For Bear Creek, the foundation is comprised of its eight original teachers — those who were here to greet the first group of students ever to enter the C gates in 1991 — Joyce Dedini, Kathi Duffel, Linda Hashimoto, Lana Gentry, Steffi Terrill, Dave Magetti, Claudia Mennuti and Steve Meredith.
In 1991, in the midst of the recession of the early 1990s, Bear Creek High School opened its doors to the public as “bare-bones” hardship school Although the recession was mild relative to other post-war recessions, it was characterized by a sluggish employment recovery — referred to as a “jobless recovery” — according to “Forbes.”
The timing could not have been worse. With a limited budget, the school had to cut corners when it came to facilities deemed as luxuries, such as a pool or theater. It was not until the passage of Measure U, a $281 million-dollar bond, that allowed Bear Creek to acquire the facilities the campus still lacked in the early 2000s.
“We started as a hardship school, which meant that the state built it,” AP Psychology teacher Lana Gentry said. “When we started, we had barely anything. There was no A unit, tennis court, theater, or small gym.”
“[The school] had a weight room, but no equipment at all,” English teacher Claudia Mennuti recalled. “The building was there, but it had nothing in it. We also didn’t have the pool. A huge accomplishment at the time was installing lights for the football field.”
“We never would have gotten the theater, pool and A unit had they not passed a school bond,” Gentry said. “The thing is, those things didn’t come until 15 years later.”
The social science department originally started in the M wing. Teachers and students helped plant and grow the maple trees that still grow there now.
“That area of campus gives me the most waves of nostalgia,” Gentry said.
Just as the physical environment has changed, so has the social atmosphere.
“There is way more cussing and fights, but something that has stayed the same is the diversity,” Mennuti said. “It’s also funny because I’m starting to see fashion styles nowadays that were trending in the `70s.”
Today, BC’s enrollment — topping at 2,170 — makes it hard for staff, administrators and teachers to communicate with every single student, unlike in 1991 when the enrollment stood at 1,100 students.
“I remember that I could say ‘hi’ to everybody,” Gentry said. “People said hello in hallways. I used to know students’ names. Now, I don’t see half of the teaching staff every day.”
Roughly 50 teachers taught in Bear Creek’s opening year. There was also no senior class; students who had attended Tokay were allowed to stay at Tokay their senior year so they could graduate from the school they had attended all their high school career. All three classes except for the seniors, however, were given the option to transfer to Bear Creek.
One controversy that marked Bear Creek’s first years was a senior prank that vandalized the oak trees that shroud the center of the quad. Originally, three majestic oaks stood in the quad. In 2004, a group of seniors girdled one of the tall oak trees and proceeded to cut it to the ground.
“Senior pranks are supposed to be funny, not vandalize the school,” Gentry said. “[The trees] gave the campus a captivating vibe. If I could bring back a physical aspect of school, the trees would be it.”
A stable economy and housing market has led to an average increase of about 200 students each year over the past few years, creating a need for a new master plan for the campus. The plan will include construction and modernization of facilities based on an assessment of the condition and adequacy of existing facilities, a projection of future enrollments and alignment of facilities with the district’s vision for the instructional program.
On March 17, 2015, the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education approved a Service Agreement Contract with LPA, an architectural firm, to develop a comprehensive facility master plan to address the district’s anticipated short-term and long-term facilities needs and priorities. Together, they are working together to renovate Bear Creek’s campus by innovating classrooms and removing the vacant soccer field to add a new wing of classrooms.