A vision becomes reality

January 05, 2000

Danette Goulet

NEWPORT BEACH -- Five years ago, a Newport Beach couple had a vision of

the kind of high school they wanted for their four children. When they

didn't find it in Orange County, Dori and James Caillouette decided to

create it.

Their vision has become reality. Sage Hill School, the firstprivate

nondenominational school in Orange County, will open its doors in Newport


Beach this September.

Nestled on a hillside between Newport Coast Drive and the San Joaquin

Toll Road, the 140,000-square-foot campus will encompass 22 of 30 acres

of agriculturally zoned land owned by the Irvine Company. The remaining

eight acres will create a barrier of coastal sage and a pond between the

school and the toll road.

"They've been very supportive of the project from the beginning, so it

wasn't very difficult," said Karina Hamilton, the school's chief

operating officer.

So far, trustees have raised nearly $34 million toward an estimated

construction cost of about $60 million, with an additional $5 to $8

million expected for start-up costs, said Clint Wilkins, who will head up

the staff at Sage Hill.

The project will be completed in two major phases, the first of which

will be done by September. The second, Hamilton said, should begin in


The first phase, costing $30 million, includes the athletic fields and

four of the seven buildings. The first buildings will be a humanities

building, which will house 28 classrooms, a library with a 150-seat

multimedia lecture hall, a community center and a gymnasium.

Phase II, costing another estimated $30 million, will include a math,

science and technology building, an arts center and an aquatic center.

But the Caillouettes' vision was for more than a nice view and a

brand-new school.

They were looking for a strong arts and community-service program on an

intimate campus with a diverse faculty and student body where their

children would have close interaction with teachers.

"[High school] is when they really learn to establish themselves," said

Dori Caillouette. "Kids love to accept challenges and rise to the level."

Part of that challenge needs to be serving the community, she added.

"We need to educate kids that they need to do for others," Caillouette


The Caillouettes also felt that it was essential to their children's

growth for them to be surrounded by a diverse student body.

"Orange County is a diverse community and yet the groups tend to be very

segregated," Caillouette said. "In small intimate classrooms, they learn

a lot about others."

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