Schools across the West Contra Costa district welcomed back students on Tuesday with officials saying that safety of students is a top priority.
Thousands of students queued up in front of schools on the first day. At Lovonya DeJean Middle School, on MacDonald Avenue, a police officer kept a close watch as students walked to campus. Some were happy to be back at school after a long summer break while others looked stressed; some were even in tears.
Gabriel Bayzon, a student, broke down as she made her way to class. She was studying in an El Cerrito school and was transferred to Lovonya DeJean Middle School, her father Ferdinand Bayzon said. “She is stressed out because she is new to the school and doesn’t know anybody,” he said while consoling her twelve-year-old daughter.
Students’ safety is a top priority, a spokesperson for the West Contra Costa Unified School district said. “We have partnered with the police department to increase safety in schools. There are school resource officers in the high schools and middle schools to protect students, staff and administrators,” spokesperson Marin Trujillo said.
Schools in West Contra Costa County started a finger printing process for parents and volunteers so that no outsider without permission can enter school grounds. “There is a strict protocol on who can enter the school and who cannot. Volunteers and parents need to wear a badge issued by district authorities before they can enter the school campus,” Trujillo said.
According to the City of Richmond website, there are 8 school resource officers. Richmond High, De Anza High, and Kennedy High have two officers each. One officer is assigned to Lovonya DeJean Middle School and another to Gompers Continuation High School.
A 16-year-old girl was gang raped during a school dance at Richmond High School in 2009 prompting authorities to tighten safety measures in schools. Two men convicted in the case were sentenced to life imprisonment last week.
The school district also installed cameras and increased lighting to monitor the school premises. Lieutenant Michael Booker from Richmond police said that school resource officers are playing an important role in deterring crime and building relations with students, faculty and administrators. “There have been incidents of assaults and recovery of illegal narcotic substances from students in the past,” Booker said.
More than 30,000 students, in 51 public schools, study in West Contra Costa school district. It is not known how many students attended the school Tuesday but Trujillo said attendance is usually good on the first day. “All things happen on the first day. You can expect butterflies, anxiety, enthusiasm and tears.”
Obed Rodes looked happy to be back at school. He said that he had fun this summer playing with friends and going to the library to read books. “It’s good to be back in the school. I am eager to catch up with my classmates,” said Rodes who came to school accompanied by his father Hector Rodes.
Vickey Jones Pippins brought her granddaughter Marshayla to school Tuesday. She said that she came to drop her granddaughter, who starts 7th grade this year, because she did not want to go alone. “She was very nervous all night,” she said.
In a message posted on the website of the West Contra Costa Unified School district, its superintendent said that there will be significant changes in the way students are taught in classrooms this academic year. He said they will be implementing common core standards that will bring about many changes in the classrooms.
“We’ll be spending more time on fewer topics at a greater level of depth in math and we’ll be doing more writing in English language arts. At our middle and high schools, science, social studies and second language teachers will be doing more to reinforce the literacy skills that students are learning in English classes. Students will be reading more non-fiction that is increasingly complex,” said Bruce Harter, the superintendent.