By Maureen Robertson
Whether it’s for the kindergartner sitting at a school desk for the first time or the seasoned senior starting the last year of high school, teachers and other Ramona Unified employees are preparing for Monday, the first day of the 2012-13 school year.
Students in three schools will be greeted by new principals: Linda Ball at Barnett Elementary, Chris Gunnett at Hanson Elementary, and Dave Lohman at Montecito High.
Ball, with Ramona Unified for 27 years—most recently as a teacher on assignment at the district office—replaces Kim Reed, who resigned this summer to accept a principalship in Escondido, which is closer to her home.
Gunnett, who was raised in Ramona and taught at Mt. Woodson Elementary before working in administration for Chula Vista schools, replaces Shelagh Appleman, who resigned to seek employment elsewhere.
Lohman, former assistant principal at Ramona High School, replaces Cynthia Nakshab, who retired in June.
If district projections are on target, student enrollment in kindergarten through 12th grade will be about 5,975. That continues declining enrollment since 2001-02, when 7,271 students attended Ramona schools.
Enrollment is a key to school finances, since the district receives about $7,300 per student from state, federal, and local sources, Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said.
To adjust for declining enrollment and the state’s budget crisis, class sizes are larger. Assistant Superintendent Anne Staffieri said the average class size in kindergarten and first grade is 28.1. It is 30.7 in grades two and three, and 33.4 in grades four through six.
If there’s good news, it’s that 10 of the 17 teachers laid off in June are back, three as full-time elementary teachers and seven as either long-term substitutes or in job share assignments, said Staffieri.
Parents of children entering eighth grade in Ramona Community School’s Montessori Academy received notice this week that, due to an enrollment of only 12 students, the class is discontinued.
The students have the option of enrolling in Olive Peirce Middle School, where a special orientation was scheduled for Aug. 22, or enrolling in Mountain Valley Academy, another alternative program at Ramona Community.
MVA is a home-school program with classes at Ramona Community two days a week. In a letter to parents, Principal Carol Tennebaum said that, because of the last-minute change, the school will provide on-campus supervision on non-class days for independent study.
Because enrollment in the past has fluctuated at the school, the hope was that more incoming eighth-graders would have enrolled by now, said Superintendent Robert Graeff.
In other changes in the district, a new state law, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, requires children to be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to start kindergarten. The law will be phased in a month at a time over three years. This year, youngsters whose fifth birthday falls between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 are eligible for Transitional Kindergarten (TK). Next year those turning 5 from Oct. 2 to Dec. 2 will be in TK, and in the 2014-15 school year and thereafter, children turning 5 from Sept. 2 to Dec. 2 will be in TK.
After one year in TK, the students will enter kindergarten. About 20 students were enrolled in the TK program earlier this month. Up-to-date numbers were unavailable by the time the Sentinel went to press.
The plan is to have a TK/K combination class at each elementary school, Assistant Superintendent Cathy Pierce said.
“TK uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate,” she noted in an email. “With the birthdates of the TK students being early fall, TK is an opportunity for these early learners to gain both the academics and social skills and concepts they need to succeed as they mature.”
The district’s non-teaching staff, particularly custodians, have been hard at work preparing the schools and classrooms for the students, Jim King, president of Ramona’s chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) told trustees last Thursday.They’ve been under a lot of stress because of cuts in staff, he said.
“They have a lot of pride in their work,” said King, encouraging trustees to let the custodians know they did a good job. “They want the schools to look good for the kids — and for the teachers — but they worry.”
More information about Ramona schools is at ramonausd.net.