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Excitement builds across the county for new school y ear

08.20.2012 | Santa Cruz Sentinel | Shanna McCord

APTOS — The last week of summer vacation before school resumes Monday for the largest district in Santa Cruz County is crammed with last-minute preparations by teachers and nervousness for students agonizing over the right outfits and impending classwork.

Pajaro Valley Unified School District, with nearly 20,000 students and more than 25 schools, kicks off the school year Monday, while the majority of other districts begin Aug. 29.

A few schools, including Pacific Collegiate School and St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School, returned to class last week.

“Each new year is like the opening day of baseball season,” county Superintendent Michael Watkins said. “Everyone is enthusiastic and figuring out how we can win the pennant.

“But this school year is tempered by the reality that if the governor’s tax measure doesn’t pass, we will lose $450 per student in the county. It’s like dark clouds hanging over us.”

While school administrators keep a sharp eye on state education funding, teachers say it’s work as usual as they clean, organize and stock their classrooms for the new year.

Aptos High English teacher Antonio Vivo will teach four classes for freshmen.

He spent the past week hanging posters, arranging desks, organizing book shelves, making sure there’s enough textbooks and finalizing the lesson plans.

On his desk Thursday were two large containers filled with Clorox wipes he uses to clean all the desks and other surfaces.

He said he looks forward to the nearly 150 new faces he’ll meet Monday.

“As a teacher, I always feel I have not planned enough, I just never feel prepared enough for the first day of school,” Vivo said. “It’s all about planning and then plan a little more because that’s what it takes.”

Longtime Aptos High teacher Sam Edwards, called Mr. Ed by students, says he’s ready to jump right into the first lesson Monday. There won’t be much in the way of a warm-up in his classes.

“I do barge right in on teaching the first day. I cover English material and I give them an assignment,” Edwards said. “I do try to learn their names but there’s no ice-breaking activity.”

As the new year begins, districts across Santa Cruz County, as well as the state, will offer transitional kindergarten for kids who have fall birthdays and won’t be 5 when school starts.

Several hundred children countywide are expected to qualify for transitional kindergarten, according to officials with the county Office of Education.

Transitional kindergarten is a program initiated by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, to give younger kids a stronger foundation before beginning kindergarten. Too often, education officials say, kids show up for kindergarten not properly prepared.

Santa Cruz City Schools, which starts school on Aug. 29, will offer a transitional kindergarten class at Bay View Elementary School for roughly 20 students, Superintendent Gary Bloom said.

In the Scotts Valley Unified School District, only three students were enrolled in the transitional kindergarten program as of late Thursday afternoon. Those students will be taught in a combined kindergarten/transitional kindergarten class at Vine Hill Elementary School, Superintendent Penny Weaver said, adding officials are still working out details of the curriculum to accommodate those younger students.

Pajaro Valley Unified will offer transitional kindergarten at four elementary schools.

Alexix Purdy, who will start her junior year Monday, stopped by Aptos High on Friday to pick up her class schedule.

She says she’s ready to focus again on schoolwork and see all the friends and classmates she missed during the summer break.

“I’m excited to see everyone and I’m also nervous just being back in school and all the homework,” Purdy, 16, said. “I mostly look forward to my sports, soccer and water polo.”

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