Opening Day

Mountain Area school year off to smooth start

editor@sierrastar.com, awileman@sierrastar.comAugust 20, 2013 

Shiny new tennis shoes, stylish backpacks and plenty of smiling faces could be seen throughout the Mountain Area Monday as hundreds of children and young adults arrived at campuses for the 2013-2014 school year.

It was not a day to discuss teacher-district contracts or doom and gloom budgets.

At Yosemite High School, the school's new principal, Randy Seals, and the rest of the staff wore Hawaiian-style leis and T-shirts that read "This is Badger country," as they greeted 735 students.

Freshman Corin Figueroa was dropped off at the front of the school and said he was excited to be attending Yosemite for the first time.

"Now all I have to do is find my art class," Figueroa said as he walked on campus for the first time.

After getting off the bus, freshman Jennifer Springer liked being greeted by the schools cheer and pep teams.

"I can't wait to meet everyone — I'm looking forward to the whole high school experience," Springer said.

Seals said the first day of school at Yosemite High was incredible.

"We created a schedule that emphasized the fun aspects of returning to school," Seals said. "Student meet-and-greet sessions with their teachers, an outdoor rally, lunch with free ice cream and opportunities for students to sign up for school clubs, academic and athletic teams combined for a tremendous first day."

The entire student body enjoyed DJ music during lunch, and two rally's — one before lunch on Raupp Field including a teacher's dance contest, and one in the afternoon in the gym featuring motivational speaker Retro Bill.

The Retro Bill Show is in its 13th year of live appearances and is currently one of the most in-demand Kindergarten through 12th grade assembly programs in the United States and Canada. On the road more than 300 days a year, Retro Bill speaks to over 1 million students annually, stressing the importance of character, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. He boosts students self-esteem while encouraging goal-setting, good grades, making safe choices at school, home and on the Internet and telling the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.

"Retro Bill delivered a number of inspiring messages for our students," Seals said. "He was detained for about 45 minutes after his presentation by students who wanted to shake his hand."

"We made a big effort to change the first day of school so students would have the chance to connect with other students and teachers in a relaxed and fun atmosphere," said Tammy Thacker, associated student body activities director and yearbook adviser. "We want students to enjoy coming to school."

Glenn Reid, superintendent of Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District said Oak Creek Intermediate (182 students), Oakhurst Elementary (352 students), and Wasuma Elementary in Ahwahnee (306 students) had great opening days.

"Everything ran like clockwork,"Reid said. "This has been one of the smoothest beginnings to a school year that I have seen."

Minarets High School

New and familiar faces came together at Minarets High School on Monday as students poured onto campus for the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

The Mustangs packed the gymnasium with more than 535 students in hopes of loosening tension and creating a friendly environment for new and returning students.

Faculty members were dressed in purple and gold to show their school spirit. Incoming freshman Abigail Eidson said she felt nervous but was enthusiastic about experiencing all that Minarets has to offer.

The day started with festivities including distribution of class schedules, music and introductions of new faculty. Chawanakee Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson used his hidden talent as a singer to pump up the student body by performing "Travelin' Band" by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Nelson wants incoming freshman on-board with the culture they are creating at Minarets and Chawanakee Unified schools.

"If I can model that by singing a CCR song at the opening session of school, that is a great thing," Nelson said.

Nelson and Minarets Principal Mike Niehoff hope students are excited about coming to campus and think it is important to give students a home-like feeling when coming to school.

"We do several all school activities aimed at connecting students to their teachers, connecting them to one another and understanding the unique operations and opportunities at our school," Niehoff said.

"We have some amazing new staff, a new high tech Ag Design Building ... we continue to see our students compete at high levels and create unique opportunities for themselves if they take advantage of our unique program."

Students were heavily involved in the rally Monday. Students did everything from digital media to band performances. Band member Charles Otero was excited about the opportunity to show off his talents to the school.

"On the first day of school we get to see our students and families at their best ... as a local resident, its great to play a small part in shaping that future," Nelson said. "We are excited to have our students back and to see what the upcoming year will bring."

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