WVUSD Welcomes More than 14,700 Back to School

08.21.2012 | Diamond Bar Patch

More than 14,700 students began classes August 20 as the 2012-13 school year began in the Walnut Valley Unified School District.

The school year started with new staff members, new programs, and a new location for C.J. Morris Elementary.

C.J. Morris Elementary officially opened its doors at 476 South Lemon Avenue in Walnut at the Ron Hockwalt Academies site so that their school can be modernized.

“The first day of school has been very successful,” said Principal An Nguyen,

“We were able to get 450 kids to school on time and our parents were able to park in the additional lot. Although it was a little congested we made it through,” he said.

A team of C.J. Morris parents came out to support the school by helping the kids find their classrooms, Nguyen said. Throughout the morning, classes took tours of their new campus.

The first morning of school also included a welcome back parent breakfast hosted by the school’s Community Club and new parentorientation. 

“We have very involved and supportive parents,” Nguyen said.

The re-location to the new school dubbed “C.J. Morris West” is for the entire school year. The school’s staff voted unanimously so that this could happen.

“It was definitely thinking outside the box to come here to a new site,” he said. The alternative would have been to operate out of a “portable town “for a year and it would have been a slower process, he said. “This helped speed things up.”

During the summer, Walnut Valley hired more than 40 new certificated employees and 15 classified staff members as a result of end of the year retirements.

South Pointe Middle School welcomed a crop of 11 brand new educators for the new school year.

“Our new teachers have big shoes to fill,” said Principal Susan Arzola. “We screened and interviewed hundreds of applicants to ensure our students have nothing but the best preparing them for their future,” she said.

One of the school’s new hires– Lauren Guzzino, an 8th grade language arts teacher, said she was excited about a lot of things on her first day – but mostly meeting her students.

“I am so excited to learn about them both as individuals and as a class.  They are the reason I am a teacher,” she said.

Her first goal is to create a classroom environment where students feel completely welcome and comfortable. 

“I want both my students and myself to enjoy the year learning and growing together.  I look forward to teaching them, and even more to the things I will learn from them,” she said.

Guzzino said she wants to design a curriculum that is exciting and arduous, but that also expands their minds to find connections between the classroom and their immediate world.

Administrative changes in Walnut Valley include Joan Perez returning as the new Principal of Collegewood Elementary, Principal Carolyn Wills moving to Evergreen Elementary, and Jennifer De Anda being named new Principal at Vejar Elementary. Steven Dorsey joins the District as the new director of pupil personnel services.

De Anda welcomed students and their families in the courtyard on the first day of school.

The longtime Vejar educator also got lots of hugs from students. Second grader Quintin Burrola beamed as he greeted his new principal with a “high five.“

Was he ready to start school?

“Oh yeah, definitely!” he said.

“Today has been absolutely heartwarming – the kids are so happy and excited to be at Vejar, and the positive support of the families is overwhelming.  I definitely feel welcomed as the new principal,” De Anda said.

Walnut Valley’s youngest-ever students also began school on Aug. 20 with the launch of the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program at Castle Rock and Vejar elementary schools. 

Transitional Kindergarten offers a bridge between preschool and kindergarten age children in California.  This new program is designed to meet the needs of students who will turn five between September 1 and December 2.

Three classes of 24 students each are being offered this year – two at Vejar and one at Castle Rock.  A two-day Olympic themed orientation camp was held August 6 and 7.

Four year-old Jessica Alvarez is enrolled in enrolled in the TK program at Vejar.

“We woke her up this morning, she popped out of bed, and was ready to go to school,” said her dad Leo Alvarez.

Jessica also attended the program’s two-day orientation camp held August 6 and 7 – and really enjoyed it.

“She wanted to keep going the whole wee,!” Alvarez said.

“We thought the TK program would be a good way for her to get prepared for kindergarten, said Jessica’s mom Maria Alvarez.  

For students who have fall birthdays, this program will include one year of Transitional Kindergarten followed by one year of standard kindergarten.

TK teachers Bonnie Carren at Castle Rock and Carolyn Campbell, and Irene Carter at Vejar have been preparing for the new program for about a year.

“I was thinking this morning that we are a part of history and how exciting this is for our district,” Carter said. “We’re like pioneers aren’t we?”

In fact, the Transitional Kindergarten has made history as the first new grade in the state since 1891. The bridging program is made possible through the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010. Across the state of California, the kindergarten entry date will change over the next three years.

“I think TK is outstanding and completely appropriate for children this age. And they’re going to be doing the things children this age should be doing,” Carter added.

On the first day, her students toured the school, enjoyed banana snacks (yellow is also the weekly color focus), talked about Vejar Values, tokens, the school’s new horse symbol (Carter calls him Vinnie), and then center time.

“That’s the beautiful thing about this grade level – because most of the learning will be center-based activities,” added Carter.

–Walnut Valley Unified School District

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