Springs Eternal ~ Gina Cuclis

Gina Cuclis


Back to school in the Springs

Posted on August 17, 2016 by Gina Cuclis

Families and teachers in the Springs this week are saying, “Where did the summer go?” as our public school students went back to school this week. Roughly three-fifths of the 4,600 students enrolled in the Sonoma Valley Unified School Districts’ nine schools live in the Springs, and five of the schools are located in the Springs.

Here’s a short look at the schools in the Springs and what makes each special:

Flowery Elementary School – A dual language immersion school located just off Highway 12 in Fetters Hot Springs that integrates native English speaking students with native Spanish speaking students. Students in kindergarten and 1st grade receive 90 perent of their instructional time in Spanish. By 4th grade instructional time is nearly evenly divided between Spanish and English. The roughly 330 students attending the school come from throughout Sonoma Valley, but enrollment preference is given to students who live within the school’s attendance boundaries. Flowery students attend middle school at Adele Harrison in Sonoma where they continue to receive instruction in both Spanish and English.

El Verano Elementary School – Located on Riverside Drive with an enrollment of about 430, El Verano School has the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged and English language learning students of Sonoma Valley’s five elementary schools. A couple years ago the school implemented a particular strategy, called a community-centered school, which organizes resources of the community around student success. El Verano school has partnered with La Luz Center, other non-profit organizations, and SRJC to provide after school programs and additional resources for its families.

Altimira Middle School – Students from El Verano Elementary, Dunbar Elementary in Glen Ellen, and Sassarini Elementary in Sonoma matriculate into Altimira. Located on Arnold Drive, by the Boyes Boulevard intersection, enrollment is around 460. Altimira’s student centered staff are driven by a value system that believes in the potential of every child. The school also partners with Stone Edge Farm to provide a Farm to School program. The school has a large organic garden tended to by students who also receive cooking classes where they cook what they grow.

Sonoma Charter School – One of the first charter schools in California, Sonoma Charter School’s leadership has been working hard in recent years to respond to criticism that its enrollment doesn’t reflect the diverse population of the Springs. The school is located on Vailetti Drive in Agua Caliente. It’s a kindergarten through 8th grade program with an enrollment of 221. A low-income housing complex is just down the street. The school’s director Kevin Kassebaum said several children living there attend the school. While 59% of the school’s students are white, Kassebaum said “a very high concentration of the school’s families live in the Springs.”

Woodland Star Charter School – Located next door to Altimira Middle School on Arnold Drive, Woodland Star is a K- 8 Waldorf school with roughly 250 students who live throughout Sonoma Valley. Its first day of school isn’t until August 23.

Tips for helping your students

Sonoma Charter School’s Kassebaum advises families “to create a daily routine with homework and activities.” This will help when there are lots of projects to juggle.

Research shows that high academic achievers tend to have two things in common: there were lots of books in their homes where reading was emphasized, and there was a family tradition of eating dinner together. Eating dinner together encourages communication and the sharing of ideas.

Voters asked to support the schools

The public schools in the Springs will benefit if a bond measure on our November 8 ballot passes. The Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board voted earlier this month to seek a $120 million bond that will provide facility and technology upgrades at all nine campuses. A description of what improvements will be made at each campus is available on the school district’s website at Svusdca.org.

Superintendent Louann Carlomagno said if passed, property owners would be taxed $42.50 per $100,000 of assessed value. She said the funds are needed “to keep students safe, warm and dry, and to provide them with the tools they need to be prepared for the future.”

Gina Cuclis, whose twin daughters went through Sonoma Valley public schools, has been a resident and community advocate in Boyes Hot Springs since 1990. She represents Sonoma Valley on the Sonoma County Board of Education and is currently its president. [email protected]


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