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PUSD moving forward in 2012

01.04.2012 | The Porterville Recorder | Esther Avila

The Porterville Unified School District has an array of projects and programs — including changing the way the district receives its power and graduates its students — that will continue, or start, as the new year begins.

One of the most significant changes in 2012 to be seen in the Porterville Unified School District is in the way the district will conduct the graduations of Strathmore, Porterville, Monache, and Granite Hills high schools. In addition, Harmony Magnet Academy will hold commencement exercises for the Class of 2012 — the school’s first-ever graduating class.
But that’s not the only change.

For years, Porterville and Monache graduation ceremonies have been held at Porterville College at Jamison Stadium, raising concern from PHS and MHS staff regarding the difficulty of conducting both ceremonies on the same evening.

“This, coupled with the condition of the PC facility, has caused PUSD administration to look at other options for its graduation ceremonies,” Snavely had said when reporting the upcoming change. “Also the comprehensive high school principals have discussed the difficulties of accommodating all high school graduation ceremonies on the same evening.”

That is why PUSD adopted and will observe the following graduation schedule for 2012.
– Strathmore High will continue holding its ceremony at SHS Spartan Stadium on Friday evening of the last week of school.

– Harmony Magnet Academy will hold its ceremony at the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theatre inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium on Friday evening of the last week of school.

– Citrus High will continue with its Thursday evening schedule at its campus.

– Butterfield Charter High School and the Porterville Adult School will continue with its Tuesday afternoon and evening schedule, respectively, at the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theatre.

– Granite Hills, Monache and Porterville, will rotate graduations during the last three days of school on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The order of the ceremonies will be determined by a draw for the first year and rotate through the days in subsequent years. If GHHS draws a Wednesday ceremony for 2012, it will conduct its graduation ceremony on a Thursday in 2013 and on Friday in 2014 — with senior activities for all three schools continued to be conducted to encourage students to attend school on Thursday and/or Friday.

Continuations, expansions and changes

Monache and Strathmore high schools will also see the beginning and completion of solar energy installations.

The $25 million solar-energy project, which broke ground in June 2010 at Porterville High and will eventually encompass the district’s five high schools and adult school, will continue with building at Monache High and at the combined Harmony Magnet Academy/Strathmore High schools. The sites are being treated as one project and went to bid in September with building anticipated for January.

“Monache and Strathmore are scheduled to start in January and by [summer when] the sun starts beating, we’ll have some nice energy savings,” Snavely said.

The project, funded through the Qualified School Construction Bond — a multi-million dollar loan negotiated in July of 2010 at a net cost of 1.54 percent over a 17-year term — is expected to reduce the district’s energy costs by $5 to $7 million in the first five years alone.

Porterville, Granite Hills and the Porterville Adult School’s solar projects were completed in 2011.

One project the district plans on expanding to the next level is the Dual Immersion program — class instruction in English and Spanish equally during every six-hour school day.

“We will be able to accommodate them at Pioneer [Middle] School, making it one of only a few in the state for middle schools,” Snavely said.

The program started several years ago at Santa Fe Elementary has proven successful and popular with students and parents.

Also moving forward is the district’s eighth-grade Pathways recruitment program, which is up in numbers from the same time last year, Snavely said.

“Our expectation is to have no reduction in what we are doing,” Snavely said. “We are still in our second year grant to Pathways and have adequate support to keep the program going strong.”

Currently, the district has nine Pathways within the district’s five large high schools.

In other changes, district administrators will meet again on Jan. 12 to solidify plans for the district’s new transitional kindergarten classes slated for August.

The district, along with all others in the state, will need to add a transitional kindergarten class to satisfy SB 1381, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2012 — a new California law that changes the dates children are allowed to begin kindergarten and first grade by changing the required birthday date for school admission over a three-year phase-in period. Children affected by the change, will be enrolled in the transitional kindergarten class prior to enrolling in the traditional kindergarten class.

Because the state requires a different curriculum for the students, PUSD will enter 2012 with continuing the planning process, developing the curriculum for the new class, and figuring out how to group the students, said Val Staley, PUSD assistant superintendent of instructional services, recently.

As far as parents are concerned, there is no change, Staley said. Kindergarten children — whether traditional or transitional – will be enrolled the same way, with the registration planned for March.

Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045, or eavila@portervillerecorder.com.

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