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Ceres schools gain nearly 300 students
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Ceres Unified School District has about 300 more students than it did last year, which is the equivalent of 13 additional classrooms.

Since the 2012-13 school year started on Aug. 15, the district has counted up a total of 12,386 students, up 291 students from the 12,095 students in the enrollment during the prior school year.

The greatest gains were in grades K-6 where student numbers jumped from 6,090 to 6,320.

For now, CUSD has been able to keep up with the growth through larger class sizes and the expansion of Cesar Chavez Junior High School. But the district is also planning to open three new elementary schools in the near future.

"It's becoming problematic for us and it's a good thing Lucas (Elementary) is opening next year," said Supt. Scott Siegel. "We need the room. It's a pretty good thing that we have schools opening up. It seems the timing is good."

CUSD is constructing Lucas Elementary School north of Don Pedro Road just west of Mitchell Road. It will be open for the 2013-14 school year. The district is also building Walt Hanline Elementary School on South Central Avenue near Central Valley High School; and will be constructing Patricia Beaver Elementary School on Central Avenue just north of Grayson Road. Hanline and Beaver will be opening in 2014.

High school numbers have experienced only modest gains. Ceres High School has grown by 52 students - and is now at 1,364 students - while Central Valley High School shrunk by 46 students, from 1,633 to 1,587 students. A total of 2,951 attend both CHS and CVHS while 132 attend Whitmore Charter High School.

Siegel said the shifting high school numbers are probably the result of boundary adjustments made a few years ago "that are starting to take effect." Another factor could be a return to normal after a flurry of intra-district transfers out of CHS and into CVHS.

Don Pedro Elementary School has seen the greatest growth in student population this year. It grew from 483 to 527 students. Carroll Fowler has 37 new students, from 593 to 630. Most other K-6 campuses posted gains ranging between 12 and 33.

But things are less crowded at Caswell Elementary, which fell by 27 students (509 compared to 536 students last year). Joel Hidahl decreased by two students, now at 470 students.

Siegel noted that the changes are for no particular reason, citing that school attendance is fluid and has an ebb and flow.

By design, there is also less crowding at Mae Hensley and Blaker Kinser junior high schools, which have seen a drop in student enrollment as Cesar Chavez Junior High adds its first ever eighth-graders. Chavez's population understandably grew from 212 to 493 students in adding the class. Blaker Kinser dropped 121 students (708 to 587); while Hensley decreased from 760 to 614 students.

CUSD officials added Chavez expressly to create a better learning environment with three smaller more intimate campuses as opposed to two larger campuses.

Ironically, noted Siegel, state budget problems have helped CUSD in accommodating those larger numbers. CUSD has increased class sizes in the lower elementary grades from a 20:1 to 23:1 ratio which is "helping house all of the kindergarten." Siegel said his hope, however, is to see the economy recover, revenues increase and lower the number of students per class.