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Schools Wrap Summer Improvement Projects
With just a few weeks remaining until the start of the new school year - Monday, Aug. 15 - crews are busy putting final touches on summer maintenance work and improvement projects throughout the Escalon Unified School District.

"We have completed a paving project to increase the play area at Van Allen Elementary and we are now doing a drainage project at the bus garage," said District Superintendent Ron Costa. "We are also re-carpeting two or three rooms at every site, we start that on a rotation so within a few years, we have done all the rooms."

A major project this summer has also been a technology upgrade at Dent Elementary.

"We have all new computers for the computer lab and every teacher work station and office work stations," said Costa. "The old computers have been divided up so there is one in every classroom."

That technology upgrade will also be done on a rotating basis, with Escalon High the next in line for the improvement.

Costa said those have been the primary projects this summer, in addition to the normal waxing of floors, touch up paint work and normal maintenance to give all campuses a little facelift before students and staff return.

"We've done it with our deferred maintenance money and technology money," he said.

In terms of staff, 15 of the 23 teachers that received layoff notices in March have been brought back, with eight posts lost due to declining enrollment.

"They were secondary teachers, single subject and elementary teachers, multi subject," Costa explained of the positions lost. "We believe we're staffed appropriately for the number of kids we have."

There will be two new hires, both at El Portal Middle School, to replace teachers who left the district, one going to Manteca and one to Virginia. A new social studies and a new science teacher will be brought on board.

"The teachers are back on August 11 and on August 12 we are having a district barbecue at the high school," explained Costa. "We have been able to solicit donations from the community and vendors we do business with to cover the cost of the barbecue."

Costa said district office personnel will do the cooking, welcoming the staff back for a new year.

"It's a time for food and fellowship for our staff members," he said.

And while Costa is pleased that 15 teachers of those originally served with pink slips will be back, he knows the district is in for tough financial times ahead.

"The state budget is built on smoke and mirrors," he said. "Instead of reducing expenditures, they (legislators) balanced it by increasing revenue projections."

If those projections don't come through, he added, schools will likely face mid-year budget cuts that could result in - for Escalon - the loss of over a million dollars in aid at midyear, forcing a review of programs and services at that time.