Several Lompoc Unified School District campuses were once again filled with activity on Tuesday as students, parents, and school staff members prepared for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Multiple sites throughout the district hosted back-to-school kickoff events Tuesday, giving students and parents a chance to meet with their new teachers and visit their classrooms — as well as learn about partnering organizations — ahead of Wednesday’s official first day of school.

The new school year will usher in several changes throughout LUSD, which will welcome four new principals, continue a reading program that saw success over the summer, and expand a nutrition program that provides free daily meals to students.

LUSD’s inaugural summer reading program, titled “Lompoc Reads: Launch into Reading,” was a resounding success, according to district leaders.

Beginning in early June, the district provided students with access to a digital collection of thousands of books and daily news articles. More than 8,000 students — about 80% of the total student body — utilized the program, according to LUSD, and students read a total of 11,378 books over a combined 2,000 hours.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for our students of LUSD,” Superintendent Trevor McDonald said. “We wanted to continue to impact every student in a positive manner. I am proud of the great participation rate and the over 19 million words read this summer.”

Due to the high participation rate, the district is planning to continue the program into the school year, said Bree Valla, an assistant superintendent.

“I am impressed with the overall success of the program,” Valla said. “The numbers say it all. Many students benefited from this opportunity and we are excited to see the impact in the classrooms.”

Among the administrative changes this school year will be Lisa Moore taking over as principal at Lompoc Valley Middle School; Joseph Ledoux becoming principal at Clarence Ruth Elementary School; Christine Nagel, who had been serving as interim principal, staying on as the permanent principal at Crestview Elementary School; and Elaine Webber stepping into the principal position at the Lompoc Adult School and Career Center.

The district will also see an expansion of the number of schools that qualify to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, program administered by the California Department of Education.

The CEP program aims to reduce paperwork and simplify the procedures for meal eligibility for schools considered to be in high-poverty areas. Students and their families do not need to submit any forms or applications to utilize the program, which covers meal costs for the entire student body.

The seven CEP-eligible sites in LUSD this school year will be Clarence Ruth, Fillmore, La Cañada, and Hapgood elementary schools, La Honda STEAM Academy, Maple High School, and the Bob Forinash Community Day School.

“Providing students with quality, highly nutritious food enables them to focus on learning, learn healthy eating habits, and helps prevent illness, keeping students in school,” Valla said. “The summer eating program and the CEP school expansion show the district’s commitment to overall student wellness.”

The 2019-20 school year will include 180 instructional days.

Among key dates on the 2019-20 LUSD calendar: Schools will be closed for a week for Thanksgiving break from Nov. 25 through Nov. 29; they will be closed for two weeks for winter break from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3; they will be closed again for a week from Feb. 17 through Feb. 21; and will be shuttered for six total weekdays for spring break from Friday, April 10, through Friday, April 17. The final day of school will be Thursday, June 4.

In preparation for Wednesday's start of school, the district held a two-day new educator orientation on Aug. 5 and Aug. 6. Nearly 90 new staff members participated in the sessions, which were designed to help them learn about LUSD and engage with fellow educators.

“Teachers are at the heart of what we do — educating students," McDonald said. "These new staff [members] will bring an energy and enthusiasm that will translate into the classrooms and benefit our students."

For more information on LUSD, visit lusd.org.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.



Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for Lee Central Coast News. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.