Summer vacation dwindles to an end |

Summer vacation dwindles to an end

Summer is rapidly coming to an end for most students in western Nevada County, as they prepare to return to the classroom on Wednesday.

It was a summer seemingly cut shorter because of weeks of smoke-filled skies that limited outdoor activities.

“I kind of wish summer break would last longer,” said 11-year-old Evan DesJardins, a sixth-grade student at Seven Hills Middle School in Nevada City.

Schools that begin Wednesday include Chicago Park, Clear Creek, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Pleasant Valley, Union Hill and the Nevada Joint Union High School District.

Pleasant Ridge Union School District and Twin Ridges School District start a week later, on Aug. 19.

Improving attendance and helping school districts cope with recent budget cuts top the priorities list of Holly Hermansen, Nevada County superintendent of schools, for the new school year.

Each school district decides when it wants to begin the academic year, Hermansen said. The charter schools under the Nevada County Charter Cooperative open on various days between Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, she added.

Though western Nevada County schools open earlier than those in Sacramento and in the Tahoe area, local school administrators have said the tradition of starting the school year in mid-August began when local educators sought a year-round school schedule.

They had implemented some changes to the schedule when concerns arose over poor air quality in the summer, when ozone blown up from the Central Valley on hot days can reach the dangerous level for sensitive people. The year-round schedule was never completed, but the changes already made were left in place.

In addition, California law standardized the number of instructional days to 180. Local students get a week off in October to make up for the early start, administrators said.

Children who skip classes could lead their parents into trouble with the law as district officials try to boost attendance. The state pays schools only for the days when students come to class.

Hermansen is taking active steps to improve attendance countywide, she said.

“We are implementing a new attendance mediation process at the high schools,” Hermansen said. “We’re revising our School Attendance Review Board (SARB) process and working with the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney can prosecute parents of truants, because truancy is against the law.”

Recently, school administrators countywide have tried to boost attendance through various incentive programs, including giving away gift certificates and iPods to students with perfect attendance.

Helping schools manage within their tight budgets is also important to Hermansen, she said.

“My office can provide leadership in helping school districts plan their budget and provide them with current information about state budget issues,” Hermansen added.

School districts countywide have slashed their expenditure by thousands of dollars this year based on budget cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

STAR results in

Hermansen also will “continue to focus on increased student achievement,” she said.

STAR test results have started arriving in parents’ mailboxes around the county, showing how their children are faring in math and reading skills compared to others in their age group.

Hermansen said she was analyzing the test scores and would comment on them in the near future.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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