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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 3:08 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º

 
 
 
 
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Santa Maria’s New Elementary School Marks First Day of Classes

Students head back to school in North County's largest elementary and high school districts

Principal Richard Ruiz bids Jimenez Elementary Schools farewell after the new campus’s first day housing students on Tuesday.
Principal Richard Ruiz bids Jimenez Elementary Schools farewell after the new campus’s first day housing students on Tuesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Hundreds of students filled classrooms at the Santa Maria Valley’s newest school Tuesday as Jimenez Elementary School officially opened for its first year. 

On a gray misty morning, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District's 20th campus joined the other schools for the opening of the 2015-2016 year.

Tuesday also marked the first day for Santa Maria Joint Union High School District students.

Though the day started out gloomy, sunshine rained down on the new campus by the end of the school day.

“See you tomorrow,” Principal Richard Ruiz said to a stream of departing students as parents hovered near the gate while waiting to be reunited with their children. 

Ruiz estimated the school has 860 students. 

The district expects to have more than 16,000 students this year, though final enrollment numbers won’t be available until next week, district spokeswoman Maggie White said.

“Today went fantastic,” said Ruiz, noting a few minor hiccups.

A former student at the Santa Maria-Bonita schools, Ruiz has worked in the district for 22 years and previously was principal of Sanchez Elementary School until he was selected last year to open the new campus.

Jimenez School, named for immigrant brothers Robert Jimenez and Dr. Francisco Jimenez, was dedicated two weeks ago.

Parents retrieve their children after the first day at Jimenez Elementary School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School Distrcit on Tuesday. The newly-built campus is the 20th for the district.
Parents retrieve their children after the first day at Jimenez Elementary School in the Santa Maria-Bonita School Distrcit on Tuesday. The newly-built campus is the 20th for the district. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In anticipation of the new campus, district officials tweaked the boundary lines earlier this year so several students ended up attending different schools for 2015-2016.

In addition to being new, Jimenez Elementary also is home to the district’s first dual-language immersion program aimed at developing youths fluent in both English and Spanish. 

Jimenez has two classes of 30 students so far in the program, which will be gradually incorporated into the school.

Parents had to request to include their children in the program, which has a waiting list. 

“I’m just very excited the neighborhood has embraced us so well,” Ruiz added. 

Also on Tuesday, students at Santa Maria, Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Delta high schools returned to classes.

For Santa Maria High students, this marked the first year for a new two-story classroom building sitting between the Administration Building and Ethel Pope Auditorium.

Finishing touches are being added to the building even as school starts. An open house tentatively is planned for later this month, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District spokesman Kenny Klein said. 

Students who ride the high school district’s buses also will notice new cameras that are part of a $200,000 tracking and video system.

Outfitted with satellite-based navigation equipment, the vehicles can be tracked by computer while students will use radio frequency identification cards that will monitor where and when they get on and off the buses, Klein said. 

While Orcutt Academy High School held its first day of school Tuesday, the Orcutt Union School District’s younger students don’t return until Aug. 18 for seventh-graders and Aug.19 for the remaining grades.

Lompoc Unified School District schools start Aug. 18 and Allan Hancock College's fall semester kicks off Aug. 17.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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