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13,910 Ceres students start new school year
Merizol Mateos CVHS Taking Flight 2022
Merizol Mateos picks up her Chromebook at the Central Valley High School library on Wednesday afternoon. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Summer vacation officially comes to a close today for 13,910 students in the Ceres Unified School District who are back in the classroom.

As the 2022-23 school year begins, most students will be in class without masks, although they may wear them if they wish. Masks and social distancing were required at the start of the last school year but those restrictions were relaxed earlier this year.

“The use of face masks remains optional in school spaces, both indoors and outdoors,” said Beth Jimenez, communications specialist for CUSD. “While there are currently no protocols to monkeypox, CUSD’s efforts to support safe and healthy learning environments includes measures to prevent the spread of illness, such as regular cleaning of classrooms and common areas, encouraging frequent and thorough handwashing, and the availability of handwashing.”

Some families can still opt for independent study for learning at home if they are afraid of COVID. There are only six students in grades K-6 who will be in independent study, four students in grades 7-8, and 119 students in high school.

Last week Ceres High School and Central Valley High School students showed up on their respective campuses for orientation, the issuance of Chromebooks for school use, the taking of photos, buying ASB cards and picking up class schedules. Advanced Placement students also picked up textbooks.

Central Valley High seniors Hannah Roark and Karymee Torres paused to reflect on the beginning of their last year.

“It’s crazy because it’s going to be our last year,” said Torres. “It’s sad because it’s like we’re saying goodbye to our childhood. But we’re excited.”

Both girls, who were swim instructors for the city swim program, feel like the summer went by too fast.

Merizol Mateos said because she has a lot more new classes this year that things will be more interesting.

“I don’t have to take another language class so I’m doing different electives,” said Mateos, an incoming junior. She expressed that it’s “scary” that the senior year will follow and the transition into life after that.

“School’s going to be really stressful but it’s fun coming back, I guess, seeing my friends again,” she added.

Daily start and end times changed for some Ceres Unified schools due to a new state law.

Senate Bill 328 forbids most school districts from starting the school day before 8:30 a.m. for high schools and 8 a.m. for junior high schools. Lawmakers decided that middle and high schools started too early in the day for students needing their sleep. Critics of the bill say students have a choice of going to bed earlier regardless of the change.

“I definitely think there are questions around how effective it will be in accomplishing the goal but in the meantime it’s something we don’t have a choice,” Jimenez stated. “We have to implement it. So we’re doing that in a way that is as least disruptive as we can make it for our families and students.”

Due to the correlation between elementary and secondary transportation routes and nutrition services, some elementary bell schedules are also affected.

In the past, students at Ceres High School had to show up for school at 7:45 a.m. while the last class ended at 2:37 p.m. Now the first bell rings at 8:30 a.m. and students leave campus at 3:22 p.m.

Central Valley High School will start its school day at 8:30 a.m. as well and leave at 3:24 p.m. instead of 2:44 p.m. during the last school year.

Don Pedro Elementary will start its day earlier at 8:10 a.m. instead of 8:45 a.m. Those same students will be leaving school at 2:25 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.

La Rosa Elementary also has a modified school day, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 2:45 p.m.

Walter White Elementary has been forced to shift its school day 10 minutes earlier. Those students will be in class by 8:30 a.m. and leave at 2:45 p.m.

Westport Elementary in rural Ceres will start 10 minutes sooner (8:30 a.m.) and end at 2:45 p.m. instead of 3:25 p.m.

The rest of the elementary schools (Adkison, Caswell, Carroll Fowler, Hidahl, Lucas, Virginia Parks, Sinclear and Sam Vaughn) remain on the same schedule as last year.

CUSD held meetings with staff and families to get input on the changes and informed parents of the schedule changes. Reminders were sent out to parents before school started.

A host of administrative staff changes took place over the summer. 

Casey Giovannoni (Central Valley High School), Steve Merchant (Whitmore Charter Schools), Rogelio Adame (Cesar Chavez Junior High), Alfonso Navarro (Mae Hensley Junior High) and Ismael Maldonado (Caswell Elementary) have been named principals.

Carol Lubinsky, Giovannoni’s predecessor, retired following a 37-year career in education.

Giovannoni served as principal of Cesar Chavez Junior High School the past two years.

“When I started teaching in the district 17 years ago, it was at Central Valley” he said. “I’m very excited to come back here and work with students in this age range. To be a high-school principal has always been my goal. All the experience I’ve had will help me. The principal position at Cesar Chavez is similar to this one but on a smaller scale.”

Giovannoni welcomes relaxed COVID-19 guidance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required students and adults to wear face masks while inside classrooms and school buildings during the 2021-22 academic year. CUSD resumed face-to-face learning after nearly a year of distance and hybrid education because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It comes with a sigh of relief doing school the way it was designed,” Giovannoni said. “The truth is kids learn best in-person.”

Prior to being promoted to principal at Chavez Jr. High, Giovannoni was the school’s assistant principal for four years (2016-20).

He was learning director at Ceres High School from 2012-16 and an English teacher at Mae Hensley from 2008-12.

He taught English and P.E. at Central Valley High School during his first two years of employment (2006-08) with CUSD.

“I love it here,” Giovannoni said. “It’s a good place to be. A lot of people are passionate about helping kids. I have no intentions of leaving. I plan on staying here until my career runs its course.”

Justin Tate (Central Valley High School) was named associate principal.

Efrain Ulloa (Adkison Elementary) and Veronica Villa (Sam Vaughn Elementary) and Michelle Madrigal (Walter White Elementary) were named assistant principals.

Kristi Britton (Assistant Superintendent – Business Services), Dan Pangrazio (Assistant Superintendent – Student Support Services), Aneta Mikhael (Director – Special Education), Terry Crumpacker (Program Specialist – Special Education), Aubrie Smith (Program Specialist – Special Education), Maria Nuno (Assistant Director – Child Nutrition Services), Zachary Nyquist (Assistant Director – Technology Services, Yesenia Dominguez (Data Systems Manager – Technology Services) and Jessica Artea (Learning Director – Endeavor Alternative) will also assume new roles with Ceres Unified.

Delia Rangel (Central Valley High School) and Eduardo Garcia (Ceres High School), will serve as student representatives on the Ceres School Board.

Ceres Unified hired 57 new teachers for the 2022-23 school year.

Orientation was held on July 26 in the Cesar Chavez Junior High School Multipurpose Room.

Teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators also attended a two-day workshop on grading practices with Solution Tree’s Tom Schimmer earlier this month in the Argus/Endeavor Multipurpose Room.

– Dale Butler contributed to this article.

Hannah Roark and Karymee Torres
Central Valley High seniors Hannah Roark and Karymee Torres , seen here walking across the expansive campus, attended last week's "Taking Flight" orientation/registration event prior to the start of the 2022-23 school year. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Chromebook  stduents
A Central Valley High School student received her Chromebook at “Taking Flight” orientation last week. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District
Ilda Plancarte
Ilda Plancarte has her student ID photo taken at Central Valley High School during the “Taking Flight” event. - photo by Jeff Benziger
new teachers for Ceres 2022
Ceres Unified School District held orientation for its 57 new teachers on July 26 in the Cesar Chavez Junior High School Multipurpose Room. - photo by Photos courtesy of Ceres Unified School District