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School starts for 12,190 students
Bryanna Magallanes told her mother, Lisa, that she was ready to take on kindergarten and immediately go straight into college. But a pout of intrepidation and fear came over her face as parents were called out of Sandra Reeves' kindergarten classroom at La Rosa Elementary School.

A short distance away, Maleck Poeun looked tearful as his parents filed out of the classroom, leaving him in a new and strange world of school.

The scene played itself over and over Wednesday when school resumed for the Ceres Unified School District.

Across the street, Cesar Chavez Junior High School was christened with the shuffling of 228 seventh-graders. Ceres' new and third junior high school was completed this summer but a $3 million construction project for a gym is still underway. The district had the $35 million to finish the school but not enough to do the gym until later. The gym should be ready for basketball season this winter.

Chavez school will alleviate overcrowding at the Mae Hensley and Blaker Kinser junior high school campuses. The district's goal is to have each school with a student population of about 600 students, something which will occur when Chavez adds eighth-graders in the 2012-13 school year.

CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said he's happy that the opening of the school year was "very smooth" and that student numbers are healthy.

"Our numbers look good," said Siegel. "Our kindergarten numbers are huge. We don't know why but we're happy. It helps our enrollment keep going instead of declining. Going up is better than going down."

At the outset of the school year, CUSD counted 12,190 students, excluding Summit Charter Academy. But officials expect the numbers to decrease slightly as student drops are calculated. Those numbers should steadily rebound until Labor Day, said Siegel.

Staffing changes at the various schools include placing Carol Lubinsky principal at Mae Hensley Junior High; Brian Murphy at Adkison Elementary; Kirsten Chaplen at Caswell Elementary; Tami Garcia at Westport Elementary School; and Lynnette Chirrick at Whitmore Charter schools.

A number of Ceres school sites are being transformed as part of an ambitious $60 million construction program.

Central Valley High School students and staff will have another year to put up with dust and noise as work continues on a two-story 16-classroom wing between the multi-use and B buildings. The $10.8 million improvement will be completed in time for the beginning of school in 2013. The new building will house 400 students and help the district grow on the campus.

At Ceres High School, a total of classroom wing of seven classrooms is being added between the student parking lot and the swimming pool. Four classrooms will be standard and three are larger classrooms to be used as computer labs.

Work continues at Argus High School which is receiving four new classrooms. The building will be configured as a 2x2 building instead of a row and will be equipped with retractable walls so that the school can accommodate student and award assemblies and testing.

CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said while some neighboring districts are seeing enrollment declines, CUSD has seen increases.

The district is involved in other projects including the addition of:

• 14 permanent classrooms at Walter White Elementary School to replace 14 aging portables at the southeast section of the campus.

• Three new classrooms at Virginia Parks Elementary School, two for kindergarten and one for preschool.

• A preschool classroom, a staff room and a front office at Don Pedro School. The campus is also losing part of its grounds for a parking lot and a parent drop-off lane.

• Three new kindergarten classrooms and a library/office complex at La Rosa Elementary. The state did not have enough money to finish the "hardship" funded school so the school office has been using classrooms intended for kindergartners.