There is no more sleeping in on the weekdays in Sparks as Monday marked the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Kids were all smiles as they were reunited with their friends and ready to learn. School officials got an early start as well, with Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis and trustees welcoming students back.
“I’m always excited for the first day of school,” says Davis. “Every year there are kids who can’t wait to get back to see their friends while others could’ve maybe used one more week of summer break,” she adds. However, Davis enjoys seeing the full circle from the kids who are entering kindergarten to the high school seniors entering their last year.
When asked if there is anything new the school district is implementing for the 2017-18 year, Davis says that its learning institutions are working towards its core fundamentals in its multi-tiered systems of support, inclusive practices, core instruction, and improving its climate and culture.
“As we continue down this pathway, it’s not just about graduating kids — it’s about preparing them for the workforce, making sure they have the certifications they need, getting the ready for their next endeavor,” Davis says.
“I’m thankful for WC-1 that the voters passed last November because now not only can we take care of our kids but we can take care of the buildings that they are learning in, too,” Davis says in reference to the “Save Our Schools” tax that was passed to go towards the district’s capital improvements. “If you visit wcsdbuilding.com you can see real-time videos on the projects we are doing and how this money is being spent. You will see the accountability and transparency that we are committed to; the website is a great opportunity for the public to see where these funds are going,” she adds.
5:45 a.m.: The Day Starts at Nutrition Services
At the break of dawn on Aug. 7, school officials gathered at WCSD Nutrition Services building located at 585 Spice Island Drive. A crew was hard at work preparing 45,000 meals to be distributed daily at schools throughout Washoe County. Whole wheat flatbreads are being cut for pizzas, vats of chili is being stirred, romaine lettuce chopped up for salads; everything is organized and systematic.
The truck drivers start their shift at 1 a.m. and the rest of the crew trickles in between 3 and 5 a.m. mainly to prepare food for the next day. The drivers take nine routes to cover all of Washoe County, helping to ensure that no child goes hungry. However, Nutrition Services staff actually began its work last Friday so that all of the meals for the first day of school are prepared and delivered.
“This is part of the USDA School Lunch Program- we have to follow certain nutritional requirements in order to be reimbursed,” says WCSD Assistant Director Mike Supple. All of the fruits and vegetables are fresh from Bonanza Produce Co. right in Sparks (tomatoes and Model Dairy products are delivered daily) and students have their choice between four entrees served per day. “Pizzas, hamburgers, spaghetti, and tater tots are favorites,” Supple says.
The Nutrition Services building is currently at 29,000-sq-ft, but will be adding 13,000 more square feet to expand its dispatch cooler, offices, and dry storage. The expansion is possible through monies in the capital fund and received through WC-1 with the project expected to be completed in late 2018.
7a.m.: School Begins at Dilworth STEM Academy
Across town at Dilworth STEM Academy, kids and parents are gathered in the front office to register for classes. Three kids hop out of a car with brand-new gear on and big smiles on their faces; when asked if they are excited for the first day of school, they all respond with an enthusiastic “yes”. The superintendent and trustees dip into a 6th grade classroom just in time to hand out a breakfast of French toast, a carton of milk, and an apple.
“We are so excited to have you guys here. How many of you are nervous?” Davis asks the students, and about three-quarters of the class raises their hands. “Well, I want you to do one thing for me today…when you go home and your parents ask you how your first day of school was, tell them one thing that you learned today. And remember that the superintendent and the Board of Trustees served you food!”
Davis and the trustees then dip into another classroom and she again welcomes the students. “Is this school bigger than your elementary school?” she asks.
“Yeah, like five times bigger!” A student with bright red hair exclaims.
“My parents were overreacting, they were like crying when I left,” says a female student.
“Today’s my mom’s birthday and coming to school today was her birthday present!” says another kid.
Introducing the other officials in the room, Trustee Veronica Frenkel tells the class, “Learn a lot, have fun, make friends”.
WCSD Chief Facilities Management Officer Joe Gabica points out the two new upgraded boilers that Dilworth installed, finally switching out the original ones from when the school was built in 1961. While chatting about the short summer break (so that kids have an easier time retaining knowledge from the previous school year), Gabica says that it also makes it harder to finish construction projects before school starts up again.
“Any time we can get a construction project done it’s exciting,” Gabica says as he rattles off the other improvements Dilworth received like: new fire alarms, PA system, plumbing, new lockers, installing electrical panels, paving, rejuvenating athletic surfaces, asbestos abatement, ADA compliance, and more. “We’ve got a lot of people working really hard, but we work year-round on capital improvements after school hours and on breaks,” Gabica adds.
WCSD Trustee Katy Simon Holland has a personal connection to Dilworth as her two daughters attended school there. She adds, “They loved it here.”
8 a.m.: Cheerleaders Greet Students at Sparks High
The Railroaders definitely brought the first day of school spirit as cheerleaders lined the walkways waving pom-poms and performing traditional school chants as rock music blares in the background. After the bell rings, kids who were late nervously walked through with their heads down as they quickly made their way into the building.
Sparks High School alumni and Sparks City Councilman Donald Abbott reflects back to his first day of school- “I was very nervous,” he says. “But Sparks High has always been a proud school; it’s neat to have everyone here and such high energy. “Dropping into algebra, biology, and into an AP Calculus class, students are already up and out of their seats solving problems, meeting each other, and starting to open their minds to new ideas.
And just like that, the 2017-18 school year is off and running.