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South Bay students return to school

Created: 26 July, 2013
Updated: 13 September, 2023
5 min read

Enrique E. Camarena, with son, unveils bust of his father, whose name now graces the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s newest school.
Enrique E. Camarena, with son, unveils bust of his father, whose name now graces the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s newest school.

From San Ysidro to National City, most school districts in the South Bay started the new school year on Wednesday, July 24th.

However, the Chula Vista Elementary School District definitely has some to brag about, the Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School, a state-of-the art, brand-new school that will serve more than 900 in east Chula Vista.

Already lauded as an aesthetic and technological marvel, the school also sets a standard for energy conservation and efficient land use.

“With Camarena Elementary, we are creating a safe and supportive learning environment on what truly is a showcase campus,” said Anthony Millican, the school district’s communications officer. “The school was designed with flexibility in mind. The wireless capacity that we have in place here will set a standard for future connectivity on our campuses.”

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Color Guard opened the July 19 ribbon-cutting ceremony with a solemn presentation of the flags.

The Board of Education approved naming the school after Enrique S. “Kiki” Camarena, a former Marine, police officer and DEA agent whose death at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985 sparked what is now Red Ribbon Week in schools across the nation. The ribbon cutting drew a bevy of law enforcement officials including Sheriff William D. Gore and Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano.

“If you wanted creative children, you would want the school to be named after an inspirational person to serve as a role model for children and adults alike,” said Principal Dan Winters.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District expects more than 29,000 students to be enrolled this school year.

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Approximately two-thirds of the students are Latino, Millican said.

In addition to the new campus, there are several programs that the district will launch this school year, including expanding the use of Edmodo, an education-based social media platform; a series of parent/student workshops targeting English Learner families; and Connect2Compete, a partnership with Cox Communications that provides low-cost internet service and computer hardware to the community’s neediest families.

Perhaps some of the best news to come out of the South Bay is from Chula Vista: no certificated full-time classroom teachers were issued layoff notices this year, Millican said.

“We are continuing to staff conservatively but there are no plans to increase class sizes,” he said. “There were also no furlough days in effect last year and none are planned for this year.”

Students at the Sweetwater Union High School District also began classes this week. Enrollment is expected to be similar to last year’s 40,000 students, of which around 75 percent is of Latino origin, according to Grants and Communications Manager Nadege M. Johnson.

She said that, in financial terms, “at this point the district is doing well. Thanks to Prop. 30 and the governor’s new budget, we were able to recall lay-off notices and we expect more funding to come into our system within the next couple of years.”

All incoming 7th and 8th graders will receive iPads as their primary learning tool.

“The district is continuing to revolutionize the way we approach instruction and learning,” Johnson said.

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Sweetwater also has a new partnership with Alliant International University that will offer undergraduate and graduate level courses at district facilities.

Regarding the on-going corruption cases involving a former superintendent, and several current board members, Johnson said, “the district will not comment on the personal legal matters of the case. The individuals involved have their own legal representation.”

Further south, in the San Ysidro School District, students began school on July 24th as well.

Interim Superintendent Gloria Madera said that the district has selected four priority areas to help the district focus work in helping the school district face its challenges.

“Our current economic climate poses a challenge for all of us to work together to sustain the level of achievement and progress in our schools,” she said.

Madera pointed out that the four priority areas include fiscal solvency, a safe school climate, higher academic standards, and more community involvement.

The Interim Superintendent said that parents need to make sure their children attend school everyday.

“We cannot teach them if they are not present,” Madera said. “Our future is in your hands; our children are the future of this community.”

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Students in the South Bay Union School District will begin classes on Monday, July 29th. Current enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year, including preschool, is 8,129 students. About 80 percent of the students are Latino.

Superintendent Katie McNamara said that during the summer break, the district has continued modernization projects at several of its schools, including Nestor Language Academy Charter, where upgrades to the Administration building have been completed.

In addition, the District has completed work related to school safety, including improved fencing at several sites, she said.

“South Bay Union School District leaders are proud of their students, staff, and parents and we are planning to promote celebrations for our schools more regularly using social media,” McNamara said. “I anticipate that we will continue to build systems and programs that support continued growth and achievement for every child.”

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