More than 4,000 students attending k-12 in the foothills and mountains of Eastern Madera County will be greeted by teachers and school administrators Monday morning, the first day of the 2015-16 school year.
Yosemite High School students are filling backpacks with notebooks, highlighters, and scientific calculators, reminding themselves to set alarms for the first day of school that begins 7:50 a.m., Monday, Aug. 17.
The 2015-16 school year also marks the 40th anniversary of Yosemite High School. Several special activities and events are in the planning stages to mark the anniversary. Creation of a YHS Hall of Fame has been discussed, according to YHS Principal Randy Seals.
“The YHS Hall of Fame would recognize not just athletics but all of the wonderful programs at YHS including music and art, and recognition of members of the community” who have made major contributions to the school during the past 40 years.
This will be the “Year of Living Badgerously,” Seals said.
Seals said on the first day, students will attend 30-minute sessions of all seven classes on their schedule, to give them a chance to meet their teachers, and get to know fellow classmates. An extended lunch will allow them to get information about the various campus clubs.
“The goal is to get students to sign up for at least one club,” Seals said.
YHS students have a number of new class choices this year and will see a few new faces when they enter their classrooms.
New YHS teachers include JD Burnett, who in addition to his head football coaching duties, will teach physical education and alternative education; Gina Hansen-Sedor transferred from Rivergold Elementary School and will teach English and social science; and art teacher Evan Higgins, who comes from Long Beach.
Dave Maynez is beginning his second year as Director of Campus Safety and will teach the new ROP criminal investigations class. Eric McLane from Modesto will teach social science, and Vanessa Mello, who previously taught at Minarets, will teach mathematics.
New classes this year include fundamentals of floral design, introduction to ag science, robotics 2, and math 2.
“More of the core academic classes are being offered in the morning and Athletic PE is offered sixth and seventh periods to reduce missed class time (by students participating in athletics),” Seals said. “This accommodation was in response to parent, student, and teacher concerns about missed classes when there are athletic events.”
Spanish will be the sole foreign language offered this year due to dwindling numbers last year in the French program.
“We are totally open to responding to student interest in other languages,” Seals said, looking ahead to courses that could be added in the future.
Two separate rallies are also included in the first day’s schedule. One will be at Badger Stadium, and the second will be held in the gym where Tyler Durman, a motivational speaker, will help students live better stories by caring for each other, making better choices, and becoming positive leaders.
YHS is expecting 715 students, up from last year’s end-of-school year enrollment of 626.
Minarets High School
Teachers will begin the school year by participating in a three-day workshop on Project Based Learning from the Buck Institute, a nationally recognized educator training organization.
“Our teachers spent their summer collaborating and preparing to take the success we have had even further this year,” Principal Daniel Ching said.
Some upcoming changes are expansion of the Ag Farm, expansion of the exercise facility, an added outdoor student area with a Native American Culture theme, and expansion of the soccer/football stadium. The Minarets Foundation, with the help of parents and community members, is in the process of getting established to support Minarets programs.
“We are proud of the accomplishments that we have made in the first seven years of Minarets,” Ching said. “However, we continue to work hard to provide our students with the very best opportunities available. Last year we won several awards for media at the Slick Rock Student Film Festival, we won a National Championship with our FFA program, and we were recognized as a high-achieving AP school. We are so excited to expand these successes and prepare our kids to be successful at Minarets, and well beyond the classroom doors.”
Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District
“I always look forward to this time of year,” Superintendent Glenn Reid said. “The teaching profession is one that is unique in that every year we get to start over with new students, new staff, and new parents. The entire district staff looks forward to the opportunity to serve our community. We have lots of great things planned for the year.”
The district is made up of Oakhurst Elementary School, Oak Creek Intermediate School, and Wasuma Elementary in Ahwahnee. After many years of declining enrollment and the more recent trend of slow growth, it is anticipated about 870 students will attend district schools. Reid outlined some changes for the coming school year including:
* Due to the increased use of technology in the classrooms, a digital citizenship curriculum for all students will be developed. A good digital citizen is one who knows what is right and wrong, exhibits intelligent technology behavior, and makes good choices when using technology.
“We want our students to be courteous and safe when using technology,” Reid explained. “Not only at school, but at home and in the community, as well.”
* Early release Mondays will continue.
“Teachers need this additional planning and collaboration time to prepare engaging activities for their students and to share their peer’s expertise with new teaching techniques,” Reid said.
* The current 1:1 (one student per computer) Chromebook program will expand to include second graders, so that grades second through eighth will have Chrombooks in their classrooms.
* The district will develop of a student website to allow students access to their own educational data as a way to encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. A website for parents, with links to community resources, student progress, and parenting tips will also be developed.
* A full-time counselor/psychologist will continue to provide counseling services for students in crisis, and Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS) will be implemented district-wide to focus on preferred behaviors.
Reid said the goal as a district is to work as a team (school - parent - child) to provide “a world-class educational experience for all of our students.”
Glacier and Mountain Home School
Michael Cox, director of Western Sierra Charter Schools which serves both Glacier High School and Mountain Home School, said the year’s biggest change is the opening of a new Fresno resource center. He said so far, some 90 students for Mountain Home School had signed up to utilize the center at 777 West Shaw Avenue, bringing enrollment for both schools up to 380.
Cox said Western Sierra places more emphasis on parental control in homeschooling programs, which he thought may fulfill a market outside independent study or other methods.
“Our key emphasis is we believe strongly in, and have a really good system in, putting the parent in charge of the process,” Cox said. “And I think that’s what homeschooling truly is at its core.”
Coarsegold Elementary School
Around 465 students will take pride in being a Cougar at Coarsegold Elementary School this year, and, for some in kindergarten or third grade, they’ll be greeted by new teachers.
Third-grade teacher Valerie Porter and kindergarten instructor Katy Penton both retired, principal Stacy Nicol said, and have been replaced by new faces - Hilary Campbell and April Hill.
“They’re both longstanding Coarsegold community members,” Nicol said. “They’re returning to their roots and they’ll be great.”
Rivergold Elementary School
About 540 students will be attending Rivergold this school year.
“The motto this year will be Hawks Serve,” Principal Bob Rose said. “We will provide opportunities for staff, students, and parents to serve others ... it could be dads volunteering one day a year for Watch Dog Dads, students tutoring younger students, staff being an advocate for a student in need, or leadership students visiting veterans in the hospital.”
They will also offer a staff mentoring program for at-risk students.
“With all of us working as a team,” Rose added, “we can ensure that every student will have a positive learning experience at Rivergold.”
More than 60 buses will be on area roads starting Monday, and motorists are reminded that the speed limit in school zones is 25 mph.
North Fork Elementary School
At least 290 students will enjoy updates to North Fork’s art and music programs, as well as its on-site garden taken care of by all grade levels through classes like science and math.
Gayle Fain, principal of the school, added Holly Cicoletti will join the staff as a third grade teacher, while Lani Owen will transition to a K-1 instructor.
Spring Valley Elementary School
So far, 155 students have been enrolled at the O’Neals facility, with additional enrollment expected.
This year, Jessica Fairbanks took over as principal after three years as principal at Chawanakee Academy, and said there’s two new teachers; Heather McGrew teaching a third and fourth grade combo, and Kathy Naumcheff in a fourth and fifth grade combo.
“I truly love Spring Valley,” Fairbanks said. “It is a great school with top notch teachers and staff.”
Fairbanks said a new focus for the district is on writing, with the Step Up to Writing program to be instituted at Spring Valley this year.
Enthusiasm is building as the Oakhurst College Center staff and faculty prepare to welcome new and returning students beginning Monday.
“Students will enjoy recent facility renovations that include new landscaping, a repainted campus, and umbrellas for the outdoor tables,” said Darin J. Soukup, director of the center.
Students are encouraged to enroll now before classes begin. They may register for classes online, at the college office, or by attending the welcome Kick Start and Registration event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday (Aug.15).
NOTE: Area school administrators contributed to this story.