Many valley schools back in session

naustin@modbee.comAugust 7, 2013 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin

— With hugs goodbye, hails to classmates and a few tears, the first wave of first day kicked off an early school year. Summer officially ends Sept. 21, but for schoolkids, the days of sleeping in wrap up this week or shortly thereafter.

Today, Modesto City Schools and Oakdale campuses will be teeming with teens and youngsters. School buses made the rounds through Salida, Riverbank, Empire, Valley Home and the Sylvan Union School District in north Modesto on Wednesday.

At Sylvan's Sherwood Elementary campus, Principal Carrie Albert welcomed students back to a freshly painted and refurbished school with more accessible bathrooms and new fencing. "It really feels like a brand-new school," Albert said between waves to returning families.

Second-grade teacher Tonya Shuford said a computer-linked projector, new paint and carpets remade her classroom. "I love how bright it is," she said as parents clicked phone photos of students sitting at new desks for the new year.

Mom Courtney Straever decided to stay with her daughter at least until class got going Wednesday morning. "She's a little nervous to start second grade," Straever said.

On Monday, West Side Stanislaus County schools kick into gear, and on Tuesday, Hughson and many districts on the eastern side start. Ceres, Ripon and Stanislaus Union kids head off to school Wednesday, and Turlock students go back Aug. 19.

Here are some tips for a strong school year:

Zzzz's, please: The long days of summer can mean staying up later — and a harder time getting up the next morning. A steady sleep routine of at least eight hours helps, as does laying out what to wear the night before. A take-me spot by the door makes for fast exits without the return trip for forgotten homework.

Home works: Setting aside a special time and space for homework can help kids start good habits. A portable box with supplies (such as rulers and crayons) or a set time on the family computer might be useful. Reading to the dog, a stuffed animal or a toddler each night is a low-stress way to practice.

The eyes have it: Seeing the board and reading take good vision. Kids who squint, rub their eyes a lot or have frequent headaches might need an eye exam.

Family field trips: Check the social studies book or science text for subject matter and look around for local museums or parks with that topic to visit during the year.

Hands down: Colds and flus spread fast at schools. Talking about how germs spread and the benefits of hand washing might help snuff the sniffles.

Connect: Plan to attend back-to-school night (usually on school calendars) and parent conferences, even if you have a high-schooler. Volunteering in class is a way to keep tabs on how your child is doing and have a positive impact. Parent clubs offer a way to get to know the campus and school issues, and make a difference.

Love Modesto organizer Jeff Pishney is starting a Love Our Schools program. He is signing up classroom volunteers and mentors at "Modesto City Schools and Ceres Unified are already on our website, with Waterford and Sylvan to be added soon," Pishney said Wednesday.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin,


Calaveras Unified schools opened July 29. Empire Union, Riverbank Unified, Salida Union, Sylvan Union and Valley Home opened Wednesday. Opening days for other area school districts:

TODAY: Modesto City Schools, Oakdale Joint Unified

MONDAY: Gratton, Merced College, Newman-Crows Landing Unified, Patterson Joint Unified, Valley Charter High

TUESDAY: Chatom Union, Denair Unified, Hughson Unified, Roberts Ferry Union, Waterford Unified

WEDNESDAY: Ballico-Cressey, Ceres Unified, Ripon Unified, Stanislaus Union, Stanislaus County Office of Education, Summerville Union High

AUG. 15: Hilmar Unified, Knights Ferry, Paradise

AUG. 19: Escalon Unified, Delhi Unified, Hart-Ransom Union, Hickman, Merced Union highs, Turlock Unified, Big Oak Flat-Groveland

AUG. 21: Keyes Union, schools across Tuolumne County, schools across Calaveras County

AUG. 22: CSU, Stanislaus, UC Merced

AUG. 26: Modesto Junior College, Columbia College, Shiloh

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