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Wasco schools welcome back their students

School is back in session, and it's off to a busy year full of new experiences, learning, making memories, sports programs and other extracurricular activities for students, teachers and administrators.

As the 2023-2024 academic school year begins, staff and leadership are excited about what the new year brings ahead.

Marcus Ballard is a Palm Avenue Middle School sixth-grade teacher who said things look good this year because they have great students, and many of them have a great attitude toward learning and wanting to grow.

He plans to make it a fun time for his students and said one way to make learning fun is to make sure he is having fun because it's contagious.

Ballard is looking forward to seeing the leadership of the new school principal, Richard Morosa, who comes from Bakersfield and said he has a plethora of leadership experience.

He added that there are many things that students will enjoy this year because Palm Avenue has an excellent after-school program.

"Our after-school extended learning program has really taken off. We offer cooking, 3D printing, a virtual reality headset, yearbook, a robotics team and much more."

Rosalinda Chairez is the principal of John L. Prueitt Elementary. This year, 610 students are returning to the school. She said the best thing about the new year is seeing the children grow emotionally, socially and academically.

How do they motivate students? "To constantly show how much we care about them," she said. "Teachers are ready by having a professional and positive approach to students' arrival as they do every year."

Wasco Independence High School Principal Thomas Yasenchak said what excites him most about the new school year is seeing his students working hard and focused daily. He hopes WIHS students, especially his seniors, have a great high school experience.

Brad Maberry, the Wasco Union Elementary School District superintendent, said this year there are 3,500 students enrolled in the district, an increase of about 60 students.

He said a wel- liked program in its second year is the ELOP (after-school) program under the leadership of Jennifer Fendrick, director of extended day programs.

His team is ready to deliver a quality educational experience for the students. "We spent a large portion of the second half of last school year providing teachers with professional development focused on priority standards and assessment. We began this year with a week-long professional development series as well."

He said students are excited to be back at school, reconnecting with friends, and having success in their new grade level. Maberry is also enthusiastic about his new position.

"To continue to build a culture of excellence throughout the district where all employees have an active and meaningful impact on student success and achievement."

Kevin Tallon, superintendent of the Wasco Union High School District, said there are currently 1803 students enrolled in the district, which is a decline of 51 students from last year.

"Like most districts in the county, we are dealing with some declining enrollment in the short term," Tallon said.

This year, they will see the return of their Career Technical Education – Construction Pathway.

"It was a very popular class for many years taught by one of our current board members, Mr. John Steward. We are happy that the class will return, and we know students will benefit from the course."

He also is excited about the upcoming year.

"A new school year brings a time of renewed learning and focus for our students. I am also happy about the additions of our new staff. Our new principals, Mr. Rusvel Prado and Mr. T.J. Yasenchak, get to lead a great staff that does outstanding work for Wasco students."

Tallon commented on the impact of COVID-19 on students.

"Educators in Wasco and throughout the country are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Those effects are both academic and social-emotional. We have added staff and programs to address these needs."

He added, "The district now has three social workers, a nurse and a full-time psychologist to address the social-emotional needs. We continue to focus on academic needs with research-based instructional practice. Our teachers and support staff do an outstanding job of supporting the needs of our students on a daily basis. I am thankful for the work that they do."

Sports will play an important role for many students in the new year.

Joshua Huddleston is the director of athletics and activities at Wasco High School.

"We are excited about the outlook for our programs this year. We have returning champs in several sports and expect to make runs in the postseason. In the fall, our girl's golf program has a very good shot at defending its section championship."

"We also have high hopes for the cross country, tennis, volleyball and football teams. Winter and spring are just as promising."

He said he loves watching the students excel at things they care about and watching all the work they put in during practice, which no one sees, pay off for them in their contests.

"The sense of agency and accomplishment they feel will benefit them throughout their lives, and I get to watch them have those experiences nearly every day."

Huddleston added that the coaches not only prepare students for competition, they teach them about teamwork, persistence and sportsmanship.

"As well as overcoming self-doubt, anxiety and hardship. The court or field is an extension of the classroom, and our coaches are some of the best teachers I have had the privilege to work with."

WHS senior Monique Martinez has enjoyed meeting her new teachers and making friends with new classmates. She stayed busy over the summer with cheer and preparing for the Miss Wasco Rose Queen pageant as a contestant.

Others are looking forward to being involved in extracurricular activities, like Anahi Ocampo, a junior at WHS.

"This year, I will play soccer, and I might do track. I'm going to stay busy and get my grades up. The best part so far has been hanging out with my friends and socializing."

Alejandra Bernal is an incoming WHS freshman. "It's been great so far because I've made many friends. I also have a lot of good and kind teachers. I can always count on my teachers when I run into a challenge."


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