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School starts next week; local school officials offer tips to get ready for year

Posted: August 3, 2013 8:38 p.m.
Updated: August 3, 2013 8:38 p.m.
Ernestina Aguilar, right, welcomes her transitional kindergarten class at Castaic Elementary School on Monday. For a list of local start dates, see A5.  Ernestina Aguilar, right, welcomes her transitional kindergarten class at Castaic Elementary School on Monday. For a list of local start dates, see A5. 
Ernestina Aguilar, right, welcomes her transitional kindergarten class at Castaic Elementary School on Monday. For a list of local start dates, see A5. 

Summer still has seven weeks to go, but for public school students in the Santa Clarita Valley, summer vacation is over next week. It’s back-to-school time in all five districts that serve kindergarten through 12th grades.

Aug. 13 is the first day of school at some schools, and by Aug. 15 the school bell will be ringing in all local public schools. The Signal checked with each district to collect tips and find out about changes for parents and students in all districts.


General advice

Local school districts will register children for the upcoming year at any time, even on the first day of school.

Officials from the Santa Clarita Valley’s four elementary school districts - the Castaic Union School District, Newhall School District, Saugus Union School District and Sulphur Springs School District - said enrollment information and forms can be picked up at schools throughout the districts.

Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District, said parents who are new to the district can check online to see which school their child will attend. After that, Pinsker said, parents should contact the school’s registrar to determine what transcripts or documents are needed to enroll.

The Hart district, which takes in students from seventh through 12th grades, starts the new school year on Aug. 15.

“We encourage new residents to contact their school as soon as possible so the school is aware of additional students and can find proper placement for them to ensure a smooth transition on the first day of school,” Pinsker said.

Parents of students both new and returning need to ensure their youngsters’ vaccinations are up to date.

The California Department of Health Services requires several basic vaccines and booster shots to enroll in school. Some of these vaccines include those that guard against polio, hepatitis, measles, mumps and rubella.

One vaccination of particular importance for middle and high school students in the Hart district is that for whooping cough, according to Pinsker.

All seventh graders entering the Hart district for this upcoming school year must show a booster shot against the disease, according to a news release from the district.



School district officials encourage all parents to review district calendars for the upcoming school year so they can be aware of early-release and minimum school days.

“On those days students are released a little bit early so teachers can look at lessons and assessments and see how to make sure they are meeting the needs of all children at all times,” said Saugus district Superintendent Joan Lucid.

Some local districts have been able to eliminate furlough days this year and bring the school year back to a full 180 days of instruction.

In the Newhall district, some schools start Aug. 13 and some start Aug. 14, Superintendent Marc Winger said.


Smart technology

One of the bigger changes students and parents will see this year is the integration of new technology at local schools.

At the Castaic, Newhall and Sulphur Springs districts, for instance, many classrooms now boast SMART Boards — an electronic version of old-fashioned blackboards that allow teachers and students to interact electronically.

Teachers will also make greater use of tablet computers, in-class sound systems and electronic documents to make sharing classroom materials easier.

Sulphur Springs Superintendent Robert Nolet called the new technology a “major upgrade.”

“It’s been a major, major effort in the last few months to really get the district prepared for this,” he said.

Castaic district Superintendent Jim Gibson said the new technology is being accompanied by additional teacher training.

“Really what we’re looking for is to be able to combine 21st century learning with 21st century ‘smart’ technology,” he said.

 Other changes

For the Newhall School District, one of the bigger changes is added campus security, Winger said.

Changes range from new check-in policies to new fencing around schools, all motivated by a desire to increase student safety, he said.

“We wanted to put in new signage, implement new processes and just heighten everybody’s awareness about the importance of student safety,” Winger said.

New building construction will be ongoing at Valencia Valley Elementary School and Meadows Elementary School, he said.

Castaic district students will discover new play surfaces that were reworked and repainted during the summer, Gibson said.

 Looking forward

While getting paperwork and shots in order is a major part of prepping for the school year, getting students’ internal clocks in order should also be a priority, Winger said.

Parents should have their children start waking up at the time they will need to for school so they are prepared when the times comes, he said.

“I’d say get your schedule set and, from a parenting standpoint, that makes things easier.”

And though the start of school can be hectic for teachers and administrators as well as parent, officials from each of the school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley said they are excited for the new school year to start.

“Our general message to all of our parents is that we are always excited for school to start,” Nolet said. “We believe the 2013-2014 year is going to be an exciting year and a very good year and we are looking forward to it.”



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