Canyon Ridge High School may currently be located on the campus of Hesperia High School, but it's obvious at a glance that it's something different.

"Right now, we're temporarily located on the northwest corner of Hesperia High School. We have a very bright red and gold building that you can't miss," Principal Bill Pittsford said Friday, at the end of the school's first week. "Definitely people know where it's at."

The school opened Monday morning, after Hesperia High was already in session -- the two schools will stay out of synch to provide the Canyon Ridge Ravens with a different educational experience -- with 96 students, five teachers and five staff members.

Almost all of the new Canyon Ridge students were Hesperia High students until recently. Pittsford himself is a former Hesperia vice-principal.

"We're basically looking for kids that are 16 years or older that are at least a semester behind in credits," he said. "Some students don't do very well in a larger class, like Hesperia High School has 4,000 students. ... [At Canyon Ridge], a kid doesn't get lost in the big ocean."

What's led to the students of the new school being so far behind their peers varies.

"A lot of them could have home problems. Some could have drug problems. Some couldn't have been in school very long. Others could have been bounced around school to school."

Prior to serving in administration, all of Pittsford's teaching experience was with at-risk kids, he said.

"We're looking for teachers that can develop a personal relationship with these kids and don't mind marching to the beat of a different drum.

"These kids, the whole lecture and paper and pencil way, that didn't work," Pittsford said. "The way that worked for one kid may not work for another, even if they're sitting together in the same class."

The home on the Hesperia High campus is only temporary: This spring, when Mission Crest Elementary School's final campus is finished, Canyon Ridge will move there, into the facility beside Summit Leadership Academy on Muscatel Road.

"Most of [the students] are excited that they're being given a chance to catch up," Pittsford said. "Some of them want to graduate this year, and they wouldn't be able to if they were at Hesperia High School and wouldn't be able to make up the credits."

At their permanent home, the student body will eventually grow to 300 students and the school's principal hopes the school can offer new programs, such as a floral shop, a catering business, a 24-hour fitness facility and a landscaping business.

"Sometimes you think continuation schools, 'they just pass out credits like water.' But that's not the case any more. ... It's where all the bad kids went. That's really not the case now. A better word would be an alternative school."

Canyon Ridge is the Hesperia Unified School District's second continuation school, and Pittsford says Mojave High School is a serves as a model for what they hope to achieve at the new school.

"Mojave's a model program in California, so it's going to take us a while to catch up, but we're going after it."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.