A new academic year can bring a torrent of conflicting sensations as students, faculty and administration must accelerate from carefree days of summer to goal-oriented days of lesson plans, finals, football and, for the senior class, graduation to life's journey.
In early August, Holtville Unified School District was a flurry of administrative meetings preparing for the Aug. 19 start of the school year. High School Principal Anthony Arevalo and C.J. Johnston, athletic director/dean of students, spared a few moments from their hectic 11th-hour preparations to discuss the upcoming year.
Arevalo introduced some of his right-hand faculty, themselves under the gun for the first day of school. Chad Van Acker and Mike Goodsell, language arts and literature teachers, explained the high school has some new features and new staff, and a great group of students.
New faces eager to nurture students include Martha Soto, school secretary, arriving from the district office where she was responsible for substitute teachers. Denise Cuevas, also newly arrived, will be in charge of school attendance. Mayra Duarte is a new counselor.
Liana Veliz is a new teacher for integrated math for sophomores. She will be joined by the new librarian Roxanne Vega. Jen Sutter arrives to teach an agriculture class, while, Lauren Hoff will teach physical education and health.
The high school now has a total faculty of 32, noted Goodsell.
But one of the good things about Holtville High is it is one of the smallest in Imperial County, noted Michelle Johnson, physical education teacher and Link Crew advisor. The Link Crew is a peer mentoring group comprised of upper classmen assisting incoming freshmen.
"We have a unique privilege being like a family," said Johnson. "We're a close-knit group here and work well together."
Added Goodsell, "It's a great esprit de corp."
That spirit tends to stay constant from year to year, explained Johnson, and students then know what to expect. One of those new aspects introduced mid-term last fall but now available the whole year are the Chromebook laptops, noted Van Acker.
"Students check them out like textbooks for the entire year," he said.
There are 560 chrome books, more than the student population of about 530, and students can not only take them home but can save all their work on cloud storage to ensure safe back up.
When Chromebooks were introduced in fall 2018 a fair amount of students did not know how to plug them in, charge them or even how to hold them, recalled Arevalo. Because the aim of the Chromebooks is to prepare students for the diversity of global competitiveness, adapting to a new device is consistent with that mission.
"By mid-year last year, we saw a culture of technological change and the Chromebooks became another tool to advance their knowledge," said Arevalo.
Added C.J. Johnston, "A lot of colleges require students to submit homework online. It's an extra tool to do research and keep pace with classroom work."
Many at the hi9gh school are looking forward to the Oct. 18 Homecoming Day, a rite of the fall season where a king and queen is selected for the Homecoming Court. They will be announced at halftime of the football game against Mountain Empire. The Homecoming dance is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Kirchenbuaer Gym.
One new structure that will see the light of day this year is the livestock barn. It is getting the finishing touches this month, noted John-Paul Wells, district assistant superintendent. He and other administrators were busy completing documents due on Aug. 6 but he did respond by email.
The barn construction cost was $655,000 and it was paid for from a state Career Technical Education grant.
"We are very excited for the start of the new school year," Wells. "Between the academic and extracurricular accomplishments of Holtville students, we have great things happening here in Holtville."
Another new element for the district this year is the introduction of the Responsibility-Centered Discipline Program, Wells added.
"We believe this program will help our students to succeed in and out of school. Parents are encouraged to attend the rollout of this program on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Finley Auditorium. Beyond that, we look forward to seeing all our students when we begin classes.”
Volunteering at the high school front desk Aug. 6, senior-to-be Lissa Cota explained she was looking forward to a successful year and then Imperial Valley College and maybe a California State University to study nursing.
"I'm in the color guard and on the cheer squad. I also help Mrs. (Ellen) Okada with Cal-SOAP (California Student Opportunity and Access Program) to help prepare for the SAT," said Lissa. "But I want to prepare for all these things."
Arevalo concluded student activities are vital to academic achievement.
"We encourage them to get involved because those are the successful students," said Arevalo. "Coaches and advisors make great mentors. And clubs are a good way to make friends and share interests."