Students will start classes at Coastline Community College's newly opened Newport Beach campus in a few days.
For years, pupils at Early College High School in Costa Mesa also anticipated moving to the gleaming new site with ocean views.
While it was under construction, Kristina Dresher's son asked her to drive by so he could sneak a look. When his grandmother visited from South Carolina, he even made sure she saw it, Dresher said.
"I was excited because he was excited," said the mother said of the Early College freshman.
On Tuesday, Dresher attended a Newport-Mesa Unified School District board meeting with about 25 other students and parents from Early College.
She told trustees that her son was painted a picture of what Early College would be.
"But a lot of the things that he was promised aren't coming true. He expected that really cool campus that we drove by a million times. And he is not there," Dresher said.
When he and about 270 classmates go back to Early College on Monday, they will remain at the campus in Mesa Verde where the school has operated since 2006.
Coastline's new campus isn't the right fit, Newport-Mesa officials have said.
When construction on the $48-million location began in 2010, Newport-Mesa immediately had concerns about the design, Assistant Supt. of Secondary Education Charles Hinman said Wednesday.
"I think it's fair to say that the Coastline Community College facility was built for Coastline Community College," Hinman said — which was appropriate because the project was funded by the college's bond measure, he added.
But from the beginning, Coastline's design included features such as bus drop-off points specifically for Early College. However, critical elements didn't work with the high-school-style campus Newport-Mesa wanted, Hinman said.
Early College needed larger classrooms and a different layout of offices and instructional space, he explained.
"We didn't figure that out until way too far into process," said Martha Parham, a spokeswoman for the Coast Community College District, adding that construction was almost done as more concerns surfaced.
Nevertheless, Newport-Mesa officials did not decide until 2012 that they absolutely needed a new plan.
"We still believed up until the beginning of this school year that it could have been a viable option to go into that building," Hinman said.