Students, teachers brace for beginning of school

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Kim Matlock, right, helps her 7-year-old daughter Makena load up her desk with supplies during the Zia Elementary open house Friday afternoon. Makena is starting second grade at the school Monday.

Kevin Wilson

The hallways and parking lot of Zia Elementary were bustling Friday afternoon, as parents and students got their first primer for the months ahead.

In about 64 hours from the late afternoon open house, those same parents would be back, dropping off those same students for the first day of school, Monday.

The most asked question during the session Friday depends on who you ask.

Second-grade teacher Kesha Faircloth said she always hears, “Where do I pick my child up?”

Her principal, Jarilyn Butler, said she gets, “Who’s our teacher? We moved a lot of staff around this year.”

The campus, one of 19 under the umbrella of Clovis Municipal Schools, will have an estimated 530 students, based on preliminary registration totals.

The entire district, Superintendent Terry Myers said, could top the 9,000-student mark.

“Last year, we got up to a high of about 8,800 students,” said Myers, in his second year with CMS. “Traditionally, we have been growing at the past five years at about 150 to 200 students a year.”

Myers said over the next year, he’ll be interested in how education is funded by the Legislature.

His biggest goal for the next few years is to have the greatest improvement academically in the state, “using whatever the standardized testing” is as the measuring stick.

He said with sports and extracurricular activities, Clovis is one of the state’s top performers.

It starts in classrooms like Faircloth’s, set to a cool 67 degrees and decorated with educational signs that estimate a millimeter as the width of a spaghetti strand and a kilometer as 60 train cars, a “reading tub” bathtub full of beanbag chairs to be used during free reading and a classroom store where kids can buy knick-knacks using “Faircloth Francs” that are awarded for good behavior.

Faircloth’s favorite aspect is “the kids, and their smiling faces. They’re always excited to see me.”

At the open house, parents got to check out their child’s desk, which included a back-to-school packet with calendars, school policies, health information questionnaires and vaccination recommendations.

The school doesn’t have construction going on, Butler said with some degree of relief, but noted new playground equipment and a new gym floor.

It’s a little different at La Casita, where Myers said work is ongoing to add nine classrooms and an all-purpose room. Once they’re done around the beginning of October, Myers said the students will be moved to those rooms, so the existing rooms can be refurbished.

Myers doesn’t expect any dangers with staff or students venturing into unfinished areas, citing a combination of efforts between staff and construction crews in setting up proper barriers.

“We’ve already given the entire staff a tour of the new construction,” Myers said. “We have given strict instructions to our construction crews that contact with staff and students is not something we want.”

Other work includes a renovation at Marshall Middle School, including a new band hall, choir room and cafeteria, a refinished gym, 14 refurbished classrooms and a new special education building to meet technology and space requirements.