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Back to school: What's up at local elementary schools

All of them start classes before Labor Day

Gone are the days when summer lasted until Labor Day: This year local elementary school districts began classes as early as Aug. 18 (Las Lomitas Elementary School District), and as late as Sept. 1 (Menlo Park City School District).

The Portola Valley School District's classes began Aug. 22 and in the Woodside Elementary School District, opening day was Aug. 23.

Here are a few of the highlights of the new school year from each district:

Menlo Park City School District

The big news in the Menlo Park City School District was the near completion of a brand new school, the Laurel School Upper Campus, for third- to fifth-graders.

The school isn't scheduled to be ready for students until Oct. 17, so for the first six weeks of school all the kindergarten to fifth-grade students from both Laurel campuses will be squeezing in to the original Laurel campus.

The district has hired 21 new teachers, two specialists and 11 non-teaching employees for the 2106-17 school year. They are:

At Encinal School: Stephanie Cox and Laura Griffith, kindergarten and Debi Rice, second grade.

At Hillview Middle School: Denise Dowsett, science; Carolyn Dodd and Libby Ellis, English language arts; Brigetta Brown, science; John Allen, Spanish; Patti Pope, math; and Cheryl Arner, PE.

At Laurel School: Dana Russell and Amanda Bower, third grade; Samantha Thomas, Megan Rompre and Rebecca Sullivan, kindergarten; Vicki Renard, speech and language pathologist; Alejandra Munoz, fourth-grade Spanish immersion; Luz Rico-Guillen, kindergarten Spanish immersion; Tim Mennuti, fourth grade; and Chrissy Platshon, psychologist.

At Oak Knoll School: Samantha Johns, band.

Non-teaching employees include bus driver Modesta Rosas; paraeducators Meredie Johnson, Alisa Falsetto, Malia Mamou, Peter Hardy and Karin Sargis; library aides Jill Roumeliotis and Lynn Cox; science aides Janine Olivero and Audra Loftman; and family engagement coordinator Flor Espinoza.

The district expects enrollment to be about 3,010 students compared to 2939 last September, an increase of 71 students. Enrollment at Hillview Middle School was up by 78 students, to 974 students.

Woodside Elementary School District

The one-school Woodside Elementary School District finished a second phase of construction at the school this summer using bond money to replace the artificial turf on one playing field and renovate the natural turf on another field, add "safe routes to schools" safety improvements to parking lots on both sides of the school so children may walk or ride onto the campus protected from vehicle traffic, renovate the school's outdoor amphitheater, add energy efficient lighting to a gym, and add classroom door locks and new exterior lighting and signs.

Total enrollment from transitional kindergarten through eighth grade is projected to be 398 students, down from 409 in the 2015-16 school year. Superintendent Beth Polito said this year's kindergarten and transitional kindergarten classes are smaller than typical and that eight fifth-grade students are not returning for sixth grade.

New staff (or new positions for current staff) at Woodside Elementary are: Katie Cicero and Katie Simkins in fourth grade; Lindsay Pierce, first grade; Nicki Edelman, fifth grade; Kim Masunaga, roving sub; Nikkie Munneke, math; Kristina Valentine, social studies and language arts; Jennifer Parker, science; Steve Frank, social studies (as well as remaining middle school principal).

Monique Hunt is the student data coordinator, Marta Grau Batlle is the school psychologist, and Suzanne Drysdale is the early intervention reading specialist.

Las Lomitas School District

Las Lomitas Elementary School District has been working to finalize plans for updating its school facilities. Construction will begin after the end of school in June.

At La Entrada middle school, a 21-classroom, two-story building will be constructed on the current blacktop area. The lunch and blacktop areas will be relocated and an area with shade covering will be built. Part of an existing building wing will be demolished to create a new outdoor academic courtyard. Upgrades to site utilities, electrical services and fire alarms are also planned.

At Las Lomitas School, a new kindergarten "village" is planned along with a new second-story classroom space above the kindergarten, a new administration building, and a new shade-covered lunch area. Bus and car drop-off zones will be reconfigured.

Eric Holm, the district's director of bond projects, says a team of more than two dozen architects, engineers, consultants and contractors are meeting weekly to design the La Entrada building.

Drawings for the Las Lomitas upgrades should be ready to submit to the state for approval by December, he said.

New staff in the Las Lomitas district: Fourth grade, Alexis Doucette and Jessica Sparagna-Drake; fifth grade, Richard Choi, Candice Johnson and Lowell Walker; seventh-grade core, Trevor McNeil; English (eighth grade), Katie Hatfield; music, Tony Lanzino; physical education, Julee Davies; assistant principal, Adrienne Philippe; counselor, Alexandra Brody; paraeducators, Lisa Becker, Victoria Berger, Christopher Dwyer, Joanne Kelleher and Susie Shipley; and specialists, Monica Donohoe (speech), Lisa Kirkpatrick and Courtney McAlpin (reading), and Jessica Taylor (occupational therapy).

Enrollment for the new school year will be close to 1,390 students, the district says, up five from the 1385 last year.

Portola Valley School District

In the Portola Valley School District, Ormondale principal Kevin Keegan left in June to take a job at the Santa Clara School District near his home. Sue Sartor, the former principal at Las Lomitas School, is serving as interim principal while the district searches for a permanent replacement.

Eric Hartwig will continue as interim superintendent for the district through the school year.

The Portola Valley district has begun the process of preparing a facilities master plan by hiring CAW Architects to lead begin a comprehensive look at district's long-term infrastructure and program needs. A report is expected in spring of 2017.

New hires in the district include:

At Corte Madera (fourth to eighth grade): Teresa Richard, fourth- and fifth-grade science; Nikki Wright, special education; Michael Hua, math; Jennifer Dougherty, seventh- and eighth-grade science; and Judy Nelson, music.

At Ormondale (transitional kindergarten to third grade): Emily MacDonald, literacy; Sarrie Paruirgan, Maker Space coach; and Azadah Malek, math.

District enrollment is expected to be 628 slightly down from 635 last year.

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