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School year begins with positive budget picture

Posted: Monday, Aug 19th, 2013

Anthony Lopez, a sophomore at Aptos High School, dons a pair of safety goggles in a chemistry class on the first day of school for the 2013-14 year. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

APTOS — When more than 1,400 students returned to Aptos High School Monday, they were welcomed by a phalanx of student government members, football players and other upperclassmen who were there early to give their classmates a rowdy, first-day-of-school greeting.

“I’m really excited,” said sophomore Lauren McLernon, 15, who spent her summer as a junior lifeguard on Seacliff Beach. “It’s my first day as a sophomore, and a new step. The classes are supposed to be harder, and it’s a good challenge.”

Anthony Lopez, 15, was a bit more melancholy to be back in class, but said the first day did have a downside.

“It’s nice to meet people I haven’t seen all summer,” he said. “Summer was really short. It goes by fast.”

Enrollment numbers were still being tallied Monday, but Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dorma Baker said enrollment is thought to be slightly up from last year, when more than 19,000 students attended the district’s 35 campuses.

Baker spent the day driving from school to school, making sure everything was running smoothly.

“So far everything seems to be going very well,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve gone today has been great.”

The students began the school year as the economic recession ebbs and a new state funding system for schools gives districts more control over how they spend their money.

They will also see a district that is breathing a little easier thanks to Proposition 30, a voter-approved California law that uses sales tax revenue to avoid further cuts to education.

“We’re seeing approximately a $6 million increase in our revenues we didn’t project for,” PVUSD Chief Business Officer Brett McFadden said. “We think that within a year the district won’t be deficit spending anymore. This is a big change.”

As part of the district’s $12 million “reinvestment plan,” PVUSD has offered all employee groups a 7 percent salary increase, McFadden said.

“We were able to offer and put into place the largest and most comprehensive package of any district in the state,” McFadden said.

The district will hire an additional custodian at each of the high schools, restore elementary school office assistants to full-time and bring back middle school counselors that were laid off during one round of budget cuts.

In addition, high school activities directors will return, as will stipends for athletic directors.

With the expected specter of first week hiccups looming, the first day at PVUSD went largely without a hitch, McFadden said.

“From an operational standpoint, today has been one of the smoothest starts we’ve had,” he said.

One of those was a massive flood Friday night that occurred at Alianza Charter School when aging pipes from a well leaked and seriously damaged two classrooms and the main office.

But the school was open Monday thanks to maintenance staff and other employees who spent their weekend cleaning up.

“At 12 o’clock on Saturday we didn’t think we would have the school open today,” McFadden said. “But it was all hands on deck, and it worked because my maintenance guys gave up a weekend with their families.”

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