Losen, a 14-year-old Tracy resident, was one of about 600 freshmen in the Class of 2016 feeling their way through their first official high school experience.
“Today is fun, and seeing my friends is pretty awesome,” Losen said, adding that he wanted to try out for the school’s basketball team. “High school is all about friends and basketball. But I’m going to study a lot and keep my grades up so I can play basketball with my bros.”
Freshmen at Kimball, West and Tracy highs registered for classes, were issued ID cards and gym clothes and had the opportunity to join student groups and buy school spirit gear earlier this week.
Students at Tracy Learning Center, made up of Primary Charter, Discovery Charter and Millennium High schools, began classes Monday, Aug. 6.
According to Jessica Cardoza, spokeswoman for the Tracy Unified School District, 16,095 students were projected to register for classes in that district for the 2012-13 school year. The estimate is an increase from the 15,925 students who registered for classes the year before.
Superintendent James Franco said students and school staff were “looking sharp” and that teachers were encouraging students to get involved with sports and clubs as a way to “become more engaged academically.”
“We don’t want to narrow our focus — we want students to take advantage of what’s available,” Franco said. “It’s going to be an exciting year, because we want students to be setting goals and developing skills and encouraging them to go for drama or other clubs that keep them focused academically.”
The question mark for all California educators is the outcome of a tax proposition on the Nov. 6
ballot backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which is being touted as a way to stave off further state education cuts.
Franco said the district had budgeted as if the measure would not pass as a way to “avoid mid-year cuts.” He said the district would organize parent group meetings to help explain the ramifications of a majority of voters either approving or rejecting the measure.
“It’s difficult to determine what’s going to happen,” he said. “We continue to be optimistic and get all the information we can to share with our parents.”
Much like TUSD, other school districts are adjusting to increased enrollment projections. Those districts are also dealing with losing at least $450 per student in funding if the fall tax measure doesn’t pass.
Lammersville School District
Superintendent Dale Hansen said his district has avoided teacher layoffs this year — which is good, because officials are projecting 2,300 students will enter the kindergarten-to-eighth-grade system for the 2012-13 academic year. That’s an increase of about 120 students from the year before, he said.
The construction of new homes within the district’s boundaries is also poised to add more students. About 100 homes have already been sold in Mountain House, Hansen said.
“There are a lot of new challenges with our growth, but it’s great, and we try to anticipate what we’ll need,” he said. “The staff moral is high and the energy this year is exceptional.”
According to Hansen, the district cut about $700,000 from this year’s budget as a way to avoid mid-year cuts if the November ballot measure doesn’t pass.
“We bit the bullet and we’re going to be all right,” he said.
New Jerusalem School District
Many changes have affected the school district in “positive ways,” said Superintendent David Thoming.
Delta Charter High School has opened a satellite learning program in Brentwood, and the K-12 school’s population is expected to have a slight increase to 600 students.
New Jerusalem Elementary School will be at capacity again this year with 250 students enrolled in the kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school, Thoming said.
“(At Delta), we’ve built new classrooms and a gym, so students will see those additions,” he said. “It’s good, because the families can see we are dedicated to giving the students more.”
Thoming said the district reduced its budget this year in anticipation of the November tax measure not passing. He said the proposition is deceiving, because it only keeps school districts from losing more funding and doesn’t fund them any further.
“It’s all a game, and unfortunately (politicians) use the kids as pawns to get votes,” he said.
Jefferson School District
Creating “enhanced learning environments” was the focus for the district during the summer months, according to Superintendent Dana Eaton.
At Traina and Hawkins schools, he said, the grass fields were redone, and at Monticello School, bathrooms and rooftops were renovated. Outdoor lunch areas were also added.
“The grass fields will be blocked off until after the winter to let the grass germinate,” Eaton said, “but otherwise, we think our students are really going to like the changes.”
The district, which supports grades kindergarten through eight, is estimating about 2,500 students this year, which is down about 40 from the previous year because of a large graduating eighth-grade class.
Eaton described the November ballot measure as potentially having “catastrophic impact” if it failed, but he noted its passage wouldn’t give much benefit to school districts.
“We’ve seen this coming, so we’ve done the best we can to prepare for whatever will happen,” he said.
Banta Elementary School District
Attendance at the one-school district has grown to about 320 students in the kindergarten to eighth grades, according to Superintendent Albert Garibaldi.
“We’re slightly up again this year, which is a good thing,” he said.
The school is adding a computer program that addresses the academic needs of students, Garibaldi said, noting that parents and students were excited about the annual Hay Day in October.
The district has adjusted its budget to prepare for the possible rejection by voters of the governor’s November ballot measure. Garibaldi said the district also had a backup plan if the measure passed.
“We’re operating very conservatively right now,” he said.
Construction of the district’s new charter school is expected to be complete by February, with the district having full access to the property by April, Garibaldi said.
He also anticipated that the school board at its night meeting Thursday, Aug. 9, would approve a new food services contract with Revolution Food Co., which provides 100 percent all-natural foods. The result of the vote was not available as of press time.
“If they do approve the change, we’ll have the food ready to serve on the first day of school,” Garibaldi said.