PSS: Opening day of classes was smooth


San Vicente Elementary School teacher Annabelle Sanchez welcomes her reading class with 4th graders to her classroom. (Bea Cabrera)

The CNMI Public School System opened its doors to new and returning teachers and students on Wednesday with an atmosphere of excitement, new beginnings, and new learning.

San Vicente Elementary School welcomed a total of 649 students for school year 2017-2018, according to principal Paulette T. Sablan.

“Our numbers have been changing since we started. Last year, we opened with 660 students, so it’s close. But the thing that is consistent with us is that we never go below 620. We are happy with the turnout,” she said.

Aside from traffic and the lack of parking, the first day of school went without a hitch.

“Our first day was smooth and the only issue we had was the traffic but it was expected. The first day of school is when parents want to drop their kids off. We didn’t have enough parking space to cover all of that but, by lunch time, everyone was pretty much settled,” Sablan said.

This year, SVES has a lot of district initiatives and will focus on their new curriculum.

“Last year we initiated new curriculums for English, Language, Arts, and Math. For 2017, we are building on English, Language, and Arts curriculum and implementing the new curriculum for Social Studies and Science. We will be working hard to achieve student learning and increase student achievement,” Sablan said.

Dandan Middle School has so far welcomed a total of 346 students for the new school year.

School vice principal Reo Arriola expects the numbers to still go up. “There are kids coming in from other schools and some of them are still completing their health certificates because we are really strict about that.”

Arriola said SVES has been averaging between 340 and 350 students in the past three years since it opened as a middle school.

“This is our fourth year and our numbers have been pretty stable in that range, which is ideal for us because it allows us to keep a good amount of students in a classroom,” he said.

Overall, the opening of classes at Dandan Middle School was organized and the parents and students were happy with the transition.

“All the classrooms are ready and the teachers were present. On the administrative side, we just want to make sure that our teachers are provided with the adequate resources they need to make sure the learning is happening effectively and efficiently,” Arriola said.

SVES is beginning the new school year with a heavy emphasis in technology use among students.

“We provide them with all the technology that they need because we are a future-ready school, which means that every lesson incorporates some sort of technology. Our responsibility is to provide them with enough bandwidths, laptops. Even the Chamorro language classes will have technology that we incorporated into,” he added.

Koblerville Elementary School opened with 650 students.

School principal Jeremiah Benavente expects late registrants. “Our enrolment is much higher because last year we were averaging 620.”

He described the school opening as “smooth,” with Education Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero and some central office staff visiting the school.

Benavente said KES had no major issues in the school opening and teachers and students were very excited to be back. For the new school year, they are focused on boosting students’ reading levels.

“Last year we focused on writing. This year we are trying to make sure that each student will show growth in his or her reading. We hope that each student will achieve improvement in his or her reading,” he said.

Kagman Elementary School started the school year with 433 students, according to principal Ignacia Demapan.

“We experienced an increase. …We only had 400 last year, [so this increase] is very good,” she said.

The uptick is due to KagES finally starting a Kindergarten class.

“This year we are proud to launch our Kindergarten class. It was only in the planning stage last year. There were a lot of preparation in the curriculum, staffing, number of teachers and students and now we are ready,” said Demapan.

What makes the KagES Kindergarten class special is that 80 percent of class instruction will be taught in the CNMI’s two native languages—Chamorro and Carolinian.

“To date we have 10 Carolinian and 15 Chamorro students,” she added.

Demapan also they were pretty much engaged as soon as the gates of the school opened to welcome parents and students.

“We made sure the drop off with parents did not disrupt traffic. Overall, all the plans prepared throughout the summer was initiated and school opening was a success.”

As far as KagES’ goals for this year, Demapan said she wants the school’s students to improve in reading and Math.

At Marianas High School, principal Cherlyn Cabrera said they have a total of 1,645 students and counting.

“The enrollment is still ongoing so the numbers can still go up. We can accommodate everyone and we our doing our best. All the things we anticipated that will happen on the first day of school transpired, like traffic, so were able to handle it. Other than that, welcoming back the students was smooth,” she said.

Cabrera said MHS is proud that one of their graduates last year is on his way to Harvard University and other graduates are off to other universities with scholarships as well.

“The school aims to provide the best education to students and the best opportunity for them. We just had so many successes with our Class of 2017. We hope to increase the number of successful students this year,” she said.

For its part, Garapan Elementary School opened the school year with 593 students, according to vice principal Derwin Johnson. “It was a smooth first day. You could tell that the kids were excited to be back.”

He said they are in the process of distributing new curriculum materials to teachers.

“Our aim this year is…mainly to get the best out of this school year,” said Johnson.

Kagman High School principal Leila H.F.C. Staffler said they have so far welcomed 624 students.

“We experienced a big influx this year. We were projecting to welcome 155 freshmen students, but currently we already have 192 freshmen enrollment.”

The first order of business at KagHS was orienting the new students about the school’s culture.

“We had the students attend the program we call the ‘Headquarters.’ We discussed the culture that our school wants to achieve, which is family culture. This theme will also support our themes, pep rallies, and events,” said Staffler.

KagHS has big plans for the school year such as increasing its after-school programs and extra-curricular activities, extending AP English to junior students, promoting transitional advocacy classes for students with special needs, and incorporating two Math classes in sophomore levels.

“We received a grant that will support our after-school program that will encourage students to get into school clubs like arts, choir, and other newer clubs,” she said.

KagHS still has its flagship Million Dollar Scholars program.

“This helps our students be university-ready, discuss financial aid, and strategize with the students on how to pick a university and strategize to get the best scholarship,” she said.

Bea Cabrera

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