Students back in school: Campuses throughout Merced County open after summer break

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comAugust 19, 2013 

— Summer is just about over for more than 49,000 schoolchildren in Merced County as this area's 20 school districts all will be in full swing by Tuesday.

The Sun-Star asked local educational leaders about their starting and ending dates, enrollment figures and the number of faculty and staff members, any new programs they might have and preliminary budget totals before Gov. Jerry Brown's Local Control Funding Formula totals are finalized in a few months.

Enrollment appears to be down about 1,000 students countywide compared with figures for a year ago.

All administrators said they would be working on the transition into Common Core State Standards instructional practices and associated testing. Some teachers will be piloting this new method of instruction in their classrooms and much of the year's professional development time will be devoted to implementing Common Core standards, mandatory in the 2014-15 school year.

Most students will be reporting to their same old schools. More than 800 Merced freshmen and sophomores will be attending brand-new El Capitan High School.


School starts Tuesday and ends June 6 for about 4,640 students in the Atwater Elementary School District, 90 fewer than last year, said Sandy Schiber, the district's new superintendent. She added the number of students is up at the kindergarten level, a good sign of future enrollment.

Atwater has 200 teachers and is working with a $33.8 million budget. The district is starting its WEB, or Where Everyone Belongs, program at Mitchell Senior Elementary School. Eighth-graders will act as mentors for new sixth-graders.


School began Aug. 14 and ends June 5 for the 330 students and 15 teachers in the Ballico-Cressey School District, said Bryan Ballenger, superintendent-principal. Enrollment is up 20 students from last spring and the district is operating with a $2.4 million budget.

The district has 15 teachers and 13 classified employees. Ballenger said instruction is going digital for all kindergarten through eighth-grade students, with no conventional textbooks available. Kindergarten through third-grade students will be using Netbooks while fourth- through eighth-graders are being issued Chrome Books, Ballenger said.


School begins today for the 2,655 students in the Delhi Unified School District and the last day of school will be June 12, Superintendent Brian Stephens said. Elementary school attendance figures are down slightly but the first day of school usually means 30 to 50 more students. Enrollment is up at the high school and continuation schools.

Stephens said teachers laid off in the 2012-13 school year have returned and three additional full-time teachers and one part-timer are starting this year. The Academy of Medical Science at Delhi High School is a continuation of the Junior Academy of Medical Sciences track at the middle school grades.


School began Aug. 15 for the 2,377 students in the Dos Palos-Oro Loma Unified School District and the year ends June 5, Superintendent Brian Walker said.

Enrollment is up 99 students from June; the district has 118½ teachers, up 10 from last year, and 130 classified employees. Its 2013-14 budget is $18 million.

Walker said the district will focus on its career and technical education program, particularly beginning and advanced construction trade classes, along with auto shop classes.


Classes began Aug. 15 and will end June 5 for the 185 students in the El Nido Elementary School District, Rae Ann Jimenez, superintendent-principal, said. That's five fewer students than enrollment last June. The district's working budget is $1.6 million.

The district has nine teachers and 10 classified or support staff employees. Jimenez said the district will continue with its own after-school program and its professional development programs will support implementation of Common Core standards in English, language arts and mathematics.


School began Aug. 15 and will end June 5 for the Hilmar Unified School District's 2,250 students, Superintendent Isabel Cabral-Johnson said.

Enrollment has stayed about the same, she said, and the district is operating with a $17 million budget. The district's 187 staff members are working to implement Common Core standards and provide opportunities for students.


The first day of school for the 419 students in the Le Grand Elementary School District was Aug. 8 and school ends June 5; the school calendar was restored to 180 days, said Rosina Hurtado, superintendent-principal.

Four more students have shown up compared with June enrollment. There are 70 staff members, including 21 teachers. Hurtado said one teaching position was restored and two additional teachers were hired to replace a teacher who retired and someone who resigned.

The district is operating on a budget of $3.2 million.

Hurtado said staff and students at the junior high will begin to use Google Apps for Education, a suite of hosted e-mail and collaboration applications using iPads and Chrome Books.


Classes for the 515 Le Grand Union High School District students began Aug. 8 with May 30 graduation ceremonies planned, Superintendent Donna Alley said.

Alley said enrollment is relatively unchanged. The number of teachers, 23, is the same as last year and there are 30 classified employees, one more than last year.

She said the district is continuing with its restorative justice program with the addition of a "Thinkery" as an integral part of the effort.


School began Aug. 13 in the Livingston Union School District. Superintendent Andres Zamora said 2,504 students returned, 61 below last year's first day of school enrollment.

The district's expenditure budget is $18.5 million; there are 114 teachers, two fewer than the 2012-2013 school year.

Zamora said the district is transitioning to Common Core standards, with full implementation in kindergarten and first grade, middle school math and beginning a transition to second through eighth grades.

Greater emphasis will be placed this year on physical education; the schools will continue to enhance the nutritional value of daily meals. A nutritionist will be hired to work with staff, students and families, Zamora said, and parent workshops on nutrition are planned.


Secondary-level students in the Los Banos Unified School District return Tuesday and elementary-level pupils come back Wednesday, with corresponding June 5-6 ending dates.

The district will have 9,887 students, 5,250 of them at the elementary grades and 4,500 at the secondary level, along with 137 preschoolers. There are 396 teachers, an increase of 14 from last year, and 250 classified employees, an increase of 25 from last year.

A broadcast journalism class centered on student production will be offered this year and the district's main 2013-14 goal is to adopt Common Core standards. The district's 2013-14 budget is $71.1 million.


Classes begin today for the 861 students, an increase of about seven pupils from last spring, Superintendent Stan Mollart said. The school year ends June 3. The district's budget is $5.6 million.

The district has 40½ teachers and hired one new teacher due to increased enrollment. Mollart said the district is trying to get teacher-student class ratios back down.

McSwain teachers will be piloting Common Core instruction at every grade level. The district's goals are to get teachers fully trained in Common Core and to continue to close the achievement gap among poorer-performing students, Mollart said.


School begins today and ends June 5 for 10,642 students in the Merced City School District, almost the same numbers as last spring, Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services, said.

Spicer expects a few more students to register later. The district has 543 teachers, including 34 new instructors, along with 453 classified or support employees.

Tablet technology will be introduced at most every school for third through eighth grades; use of new technology was piloted in the district's summer English learners program.

The district is operating on a $77.2 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year, Spicer said.


The Merced River Union Elementary School District opens today and closes June 6 for 160 students, a reflection of slightly declining enrollment taking place over the last three years, Superintendent Helio Brasil said.

Brasil said one new teacher has been added as the district attempts to minimize the number of combination-grade classes to better serve students with grade level instruction.

Common Core instructional practices will be implemented throughout the school year. An English Language Learner pull-out program will be offered to serve the district's growing number of English as a second-language learners.

The district's total budget is approximately $1.5 million.


High school classes in Merced, Atwater and Livingston begin today and end June 5 for 10,282 students, up from 9,781 students last March. Brand-new El Capitan High School in Merced will open to more than 800 freshmen and sophomores this week.

The district has 465 teachers and 383 classified employees, slightly down from spring figures, with some positions that have not been filled yet.

An auto shop program is being offered at El Capitan High School to boost career-technical education offerings. The transition to Common Core standards will focus on increasing rigorous and relevant literacy instruction for all students.


For the Plainsburg Union Elementary School District, school begins Tuesday and ends June 5 for 129 students, four fewer than last June. The district has seven teachers and six support staff members, the same as last year. Its budget is $820,000 for the 2013-14 school year.

The district's main goal is to continue to provide a safe educational environment where all students can learn and be successful. Common Core standards will be incorporated into the classrooms.


School began Aug. 12 and will end June 4 for 750 Planada School District students, up three students from last June, said Superintendent Jose Gonzalez. The district has 42 teachers and 50 classified employees, the same as last year.

Common Core instructional practices will be implemented in kindergarten through second grades, along with middle school math and eighth-grade language arts. A collaborative English-language learners program continues with help from the Merced County Office of Education and the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

The district's budget is $7.2 million and its main goals include optimizing stakeholder involvement in school activities, Gonzalez said.


School starts today and ends June 5 for 108 students in the Snelling-Merced Falls Union Elementary School District. Enrollment is about the same as the last school year; the district has five teachers and six classified employees, said Alison Kahl, superintendent-principal.

The district will continue working to close the achievement gap and introduce Common Core standards into the curriculum, Kahl said.


The Weaver Union School District began classes July 29 and the year ends June 6; the district has two-week breaks in its trimester scheduling in October and February, Superintendent John Curry said.

The district has 2,643 students, up 88 students from last spring; there are 142 teachers and approximately 115 additional staff members including management and classified positions.

Curry said the district is in the second of four years of transitioning to Common Core standards and is in the pre-construction phase of its middle school modernization project.

Weaver's 2013-14 budget is $18.7 million.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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