By RICHARD PEARSALL
The first graduating class at Seneca High School will have about 150 members, barring any last minute rush, school officials say.
They are the sophomores of today at Shawnee and Lenape high schools who have opted to transfer to the new high school for its opening next fall.
Of the 450 students given the choice to move to the new school, 148 had decided to do so as of Nov. 5.
They will constitute the Class of 2005 at the $45- million, state-of-the-art facility under construction on a spacious tract of former farmland here.
"We're still accepting kids," said Pat Milich, spokeswoman for the Lenape Regional High School District, " but those who are undecided should make their decision as soon as possible."
When Seneca opens, it will have a full contingent of of freshmen and sophomores from its four sending towns - Tabernacle, Shamong, Southampton and Woodland - but no seniors and only about a third of eligible juniors.
Students from Tabernacle and Shamong now attend Shawnee High School in Medford, while students from Southampton and Woodland attend Lenape High School, also in Medford, near the Mount Laurel line.
Both those schools are overcrowded, which is the reason the Lenape district held a referendum in December 1997 to build the new high school in Tabernacle.
In devising a transition plan, the district opted to have all juniors stay put to complete their senior years and to have all freshmen make the move.
Milich said that athletics played a major role in the sophomores' decisions to move or stay.
The new school will offer a full range of sports at the freshman and JV levels, but only noncontact sports at the varsity level.
Those interested in playing varsity football, baseball, soccer, basketball, field hockey and lacrosse, for example, have opted to remain where they are.
For other students, including those playing sports such as golf or tennis, the choice may be more complex.
With a smaller student body, Milich noted, students have a greater chance to excel and to take leadership roles in student government and school plays.
Altogether, almost 150 students decided to transfer to Seneca.
About 70 sophomores from Lenape have decided to transfer, a little more than half of those eligible, while 77 students are moving from Shawnee, representing about a third of those eligible.
Reach Richard Pearsall at (856)-486-2465 or firstname.lastname@example.org