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Schools Prep For Opening Day
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In just a few days, the doors will open on a new school year in Escalon, with students returning to campus on Monday, Aug. 17.

Final work projects are being finished at the various sites and the administrative team, including principals at all schools, is the same as it was at the start of the 2008-2009 school year.

This year, however, will mark the final 'opening day' for Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Dave Mantooth, who officially turned in his retirement notice to the school board in July and has set a June 30, 2010 retirement date. Mantooth is entering his fourth year as district superintendent but he has been with the Escalon Unified School District for 20 years, starting first as Escalon High School principal. He was in that post for six years, then served as assistant district superintendent for 10, under the leadership of Bob Wallace. When Wallace retired from the superintendent's position, Mantooth took over the top job.

"I will be in a supporting role," Mantooth said of how he will assist in the search for his successor, noting that the school board members will be developing a plan of action at the Aug. 18 board meeting to start the search process for a new superintendent.

"They are going to work with the county, go over the options, how to proceed," Mantooth said. "The goal is to choose somebody so we can have them in here before the end of the year so I will be able to work with them to ease the transition."

Mantooth will be on hand for this year's first day, though, ready to greet students and making the rounds of the various school sites.

Escalon High School is back in session with the bell for first period at 8:20 a.m. (pre-period 7:25 a.m.) and dismissal at 3:05 p.m. Joel Johannsen returns as high school principal and Dave Lattig as assistant principal. El Portal Middle School hours are 8:40 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. with Mark Vos as principal and Alison Sharkey as assistant principal.

Dent Elementary School has Kendra Helsley as principal and Trish Anderson as assistant principal, with kindergarten hours 8:40 a.m. to 2:10 p.m., first through third grades 8:30 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. and fourth and fifth grades, 8:15 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

At Van Allen Elementary, hours are 8:15 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. with Scott Ferreira back as principal. Farmington Elementary runs from 8 a.m. to 2:05 p.m. and Collegeville Elementary hours are from 8:15 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. Bob Amato returns as principal for both those rural sites.

Mantooth said the final push is on this week, as maintenance crews finish work, getting all the sites ready for opening day.

"Things are proceeding very well, they are wrapping up a number of things," Mantooth said of the variety of work projects, from painting to carpet cleaning, roof work to the replacement of the phone system at Dent Elementary. "It has been a busy summer."

Wall dividers have also gone in at El Portal in central classroom areas, sprinkler work has been done at the Dent track area and some sites have had parking lot paving work done as well.

Only two new teachers have been brought on board, with a social studies teacher and a part-time math teacher new to the Escalon High staff.

New this year, the school board has also implemented a 'one stop' school bus policy, restricting changes on bus routes during the school year and allowing jut one stop per student.

"We've already cut back on two routes in the morning," Mantooth noted, by eliminating the availability of having more than one stop per child during the year.

Mantooth said transportation is a huge cost and while Escalon hasn't made cuts like some other area districts - such as discontinuing all bussing within the city limits - they are tightening up and will be looking at ways to further reduce transportation costs during the year.

"That's an area that has a tremendous impact," Mantooth said.