ROCHESTER, N.Y. --  It's a new year and a new era for Rochester's former East High School.

Hugs, handshakes and high fives made for high energy as staff members at East School greeted new and returning students. About 1,500 students began classes at East School Tuesday as it officially opened under a new name and a new partnership with the University of Rochester.

"We've revamped the entire curriculum with the University of Rochester experts and our teacher leaders, so students are going to see a lot more challenge, but a lot more support," said Shaun Nelms, East School superintendent.

"We're going to have an improvement because we're changing some of the staff, changing some of the students, how many students we have and I also think that the way the classes are set up now, we're going to have more help than we had before," said Marrek Woodward, student.

East has now been divided into a lower and upper school. A new sixth grade will serve 80 students. Administrators and teachers spent the summer preparing for the academic changes that include a longer school day, double blocks of English and math classes, a range of new electives and advanced placement courses. School leaders say parents and students need to know attendance is the key to learning.

"Now it's up to them. It's up to the parents to work with us to get their students here and to help us make them be more successful academically," said Nelms.

East School will continue to push its plan to engage families, community members and its staff to create a culture where students want to attend school.

"I think I'm gonna have a good year. U of R's gonna help out a lot and I think this is going to be a great improvement for East that we really needed," said Woodward.

"We really think that East is going to be a beacon of hope for this community and for the city," said Nelms.