News Column

Turlock schools to let out early Wednesdays; high school buildings get makeover

June 26, 2014

By Nan Austin, The Modesto Bee

June 26--TURLOCK -- Turlock schoolkids all will have early-out Wednesdays when school restarts Aug. 18, one of many changes for the district in the coming year.

Turlock High will see the greatest disruptions, as $7.6 million in renovations to its west gym and performing arts building proceed through the year and next summer. The project is slated for completion Aug. 1, 2015, though some rooms will open earlier. Gym, music and drama classes will shift to alternate facilities in the meantime.

"It's a little bit of a sudoku puzzle right now," said THS Principal Marie Peterson, explaining how Bulldog Arena, once the boys gym, will do extra duty and music classes will temporarily move into classrooms.

Bulldog Arena, which is the east gym, and the west gym have served co-ed physical education classes for several years. Locker rooms, however, have kept their separate addresses.

The west gym, which most Turlock grads remember as the girls gym, will be getting a face-lift and an east side elevator to the second-floor viewing area. The 1933 building will get a faux brick facade to match other early campus buildings, and its arched windows will look out through more energy-efficient glass.

The wooden bleachers peering down courtside will remain, overseeing a redone gym floor and new scoreboards. A half-story elevator will rise from the locker room to the gym floor. The showers will remain, but new lockers and accessible restrooms are coming. Less visible will be an all-new electrical system.

"We're basically tearing out every wire there is," said Josh Cullum, supervisor for the Collins Electric crew working in the gym Wednesday.

One building over, demolition crews were ripping the 1980s-era performing arts building's interior down to the studs, led by Sam Roman of Allied Environmental Inc.

Gone are folding, movable walls and a drama teacher's office. The new plan will add a ticket desk to the lobby and cutting-edge sound and lighting systems to the theater, Peterson said. In deference to the building's districtwide use, the old blue-and-gold Turlock High color scheme will become earth tones, she added.

The main walkway fronting the performing arts building and the L wing will be planted with trees this summer thanks to a $4,000 grant from Lowe's, Peterson said.

In other changes, the campus will add computer programming and have 19 Advanced Placement classes for 2014-15, including physics, chemistry, macroeconomics, music theory, studio art and human geography.

Early-day Wednesdays

The switch to Common Core-integrated math will wait a year at high schools. Turlock seventh- and eighth-graders will shift to the system in 2014-15.

A switch to early-day Wednesdays at all district schools next year will help coordinate the rollout, and Turlock High will end its late-start schedule.

"We have worked hard to have near-similar release times at the (seventh- through 12th-grade) sites in order to provide collaboration time for staff in their professional learning communities at their respective sites, as well as opportunity to meet with colleagues across the district," said Dana Trevethan, assistant superintendent for educational services.

Dutcher Middle, Turlock Junior High and the two high schools will shorten periods to end between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Wednesdays. Schedules at Roselawn Continuation High School and the eCademy Charter will not be affected.

Turlock elementary schools have gotten out early on Wednesdays for decades, but next year, the last bell will ring 45 minutes earlier. Days will begin at staggered times from 8:15 to 8:35 a.m. and on Wednesdays get out between noon and 12:20 p.m. All afternoon kindergarten and transitional kindergarten classes will come in the mornings and eat lunch before their day ends.

Bell schedules for all schools are listed on the district website, Buses will adapt schedules to match.

The everybody-out plan for Wednesdays will give teachers time to work and train together by schools, by grades and by subjects as they put Common Core lessons in practice, Trevethan said.

Across all grades, the more hands-on style and real-world examples of Common Core homework should be more familiar to parents after years of worksheets that stressed rote memorization to fit state tests.

Under the district's plan to address community concerns in its spending, early-grade students will get some music instruction and parents will get more classes, workshops and information nights.

Ag students will have more hands-on activities thanks to a district farm getting major expansion. The Taylor Road facility will serve Turlock and Pitman high school classes.

Turlock High has added a Facebook page, Find Pitman High's at

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.


(c)2014 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

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Source: Modesto Bee (CA)

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