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Bells to ring later at middle and high schools
Incoming freshman at CHS
Incoming freshmen attended an orientation session at Ceres High School on Monday that included having yearbook photos taken, receiving textbooks and touring the campus. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District

Ceres students will be heading back to the classroom on Wednesday, Aug. 10 but a new state law is forcing a change to when middle school and high schoolers show up for the beginning of the school day and when the final bell rings.

Senate Bill 328, a law crafted by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Newsom, 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,” said Beth Jimenez, Ceres Unified School District’s communications specialist. “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.

“We have our transportation routes down to a science in terms of getting the secondary kids bussed and then coming back and picking up the younger ones,” said Jimenez. “We don’t have enough bus drivers or buses to transport all the students at the same time. And similarly with child nutrition, our lunch schedules are staggered a bit so we can get nearly 14,000 students fed.”

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 45 minutes later and they leave the campus 45 minutes later.

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.

Most elementary schools keep their regular bell schedule, but to juggle bus schedules and nutrition times, Senate Bill 328 is also changing the starting dates for some elementary schools. For example, 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 and ending 10 minutes later (8:30 a.m. and leave 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 leave at 2:45 p.m. instead of the 3:25 p.m. release time last spring.

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.

SB 328 provides that rural school districts are exempted from the new school start time. However, the law does not currently provide a definition of a “rural school district,” a fact that was noted in the legislative analysis that accompanied the bill. This rural exemption only applies to school districts, but not to charter schools.

CUSD held meetings with staff and families to get input on the changes and did inform parents of the forthcoming changes. Reminders will be sent to parents before school starts on Aug. 10.

The school year starts out back to normal following the COVID pandemic with full in-person learning with masks not a requirement, said Jimenez.

“Kids and staff can wear them. They don’t have to wear them. It’s completely up to them. We are pretty much back to the way things were. As we have seen, things can change but this is how we’re planning to start the year.”

Ceres Unified has a host of new administrators filling positions for the 2022-23 school year. They are:

Rogelio Adame, Principal – Cesar Chavez Junior High.

Jessica Artea, Learning Director – Endeavor Alternative.

Kristi Britton, Assistant Superintendent – Business Services.

Terry Crumpacker, Program Specialist – Special Education.

Yesenia Dominguez, Data Systems Manager – Technology Services.

Casey Giovannoni, Principal – Central Valley High School.

Michelle Madrigal, Assistant Principal – Walter White Elementary.

Ismael Maldonado, Principal – Caswell Elementary.

Steve Merchant, Principal – Whitmore Charter Schools.

Aneta Mikhael, Director – Special Education.

Alfonso Navarro, Principal – Mae Hensley Junior High.

Maria Nuno, Assistant Director – Child Nutrition Services.

Zachary Nyquist, Assistant Director – Technology Services.

Dan Pangrazio, Assistant Superintendent – Student Support Services.

Aubrie Smith, Program Specialist – Special Education.

Justin Tate, Associate Principal – Central Valley High School.

Efrain Ulloa, Assistant Principal – Adkison Elementary.

Veronica Villa, Assistant Principal – Sam Vaughn Elementary.

Kimberly Wood, Assistant Principal – Central Valley High School.

CHS freshmen again
Incoming Ceres High School freshmen enjoyed talking with one another during Monday's orientation session that included having yearbook photos taken, receiving textbooks and touring the campus.