Students who returned Tuesday to Washington Unified School District classrooms might not know why their school year started so early.
"In my recollection, this is the earliest we've ever started," said Assistant Superintendent Joey Campbell, who has been with the district for more than 20 years.
Blame it on Christmas -- which is somewhat ironic, given this week's triple-digit temperatures.
Washington Unified -- which includes the combined West Fresno elementary and middle schools, Washington Union High and American Union Elementary -- kicked off the new school year two weeks ahead of most other districts because officials wanted the high school's fall semester to finish before winter break, Campbell said.
District officials and staff decided to end the semester on Dec. 14 instead of just four days before Christmas, he said.
Under this schedule, the first semester is 85 days while the second semester is 95 days, Campbell said. Days taken for state testing in the spring will make the semesters close to equal, he said. Washington Unified's school year ends May 31. Most Valley schools will open their doors for the 2012-13 school year within the next two weeks. Fresno and Clovis unifieds' first day is Aug. 20; Central Unified begins Aug. 15.
No matter what the calendar said Tuesday, students at West Fresno Middle School were ready for the new school year, said Michelle Espinoza, a sixth-grade math and science teacher.
"I had several kids say they couldn't wait to start school," she said after leading her morning classes.
Said Principal Alan Macedo, "Most of the time parents say that, but it's nice to have the kids say that, too."
Sixth-grader Adrian Johnson was among those excited about beginning a new year. In fact, the 11-year-old couldn't wait. He was up by 6 a.m and on campus an hour later.
Adrian said he was enthusiastic about returning to school "because we get to learn more, and we have fun doing it."
"We also get to meet new teachers and new friends and stuff," he said.
Teachers and administrators said they were encouraged by a big turnout of parents and families for back-to-school night on Monday. Espinoza, who is starting her fifth year at the school, said she greeted about 20 to 25 families on campus Monday night, more than twice the number as in previous years.
Macedo said hosting back-to-school night the day before school starts allows students and parents to become acquainted with teachers and classes. That puts them more at ease on the first day.
Espinoza said that seemed to be the case.
"Things went well," she said. "It was a good day."
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