Chatom Elementary may be a small, rural school located amongst orchards and fields but the school community is full of dedicated educators, committed parents and generous alumni.
When Chatom’s 400 transitional kindergarten through fifth grade students start a new school year on Monday, they will arrive to campus with a number of renovations and new academic opportunities.
There is new asphalt on the kindergarten through second grade playground with fun activities like a tic-tac-toe board, hopscotch squares and a tricycle race track. For the older kids, there are brand new basketball backboards and hoops and a new climbing structure will be arriving soon.
Students will have access to new computers and the after-school program will now offer a course on logic and problem-solving games and activities.
There is new roofing on the buildings, a refinished gymnasium floor and a new website for the school to better communicate with parents and the community.
The improvement that Chatom Union School District Superintendent Cherise Olvera is most excited about is the new pedestrian walkway in front of the school that drastically increases student safety as they arrive and leave school each day. Although still barren as of Thursday, the front of Chatom Elementary will soon be beautified as plans are underway to plant new trees, shrubs and flowers.
“Many of these projects are made possible due to partnerships,” said Olvera.
The Local Warriors Club, a group of Chatom alumni, are responsible for the new computers and along with the Lions Club for the basketball boards and hoops. The Local Warriors Club also partnered with the Parent Teacher Club to collect donations for the new climbing structure.
Other improvements came out of the Local Control and Accountability Plan, which is a how the school district decides where to spend state funds over the next three years. Many of the improvements that came from the LCAP, like the new playground asphalt and website, have been years in the planning.
“We’re a small district, we have to save money and build to make it happen,” said Olvera. “We plant the seed and watch it grow.”
While the smaller district means a smaller annual budget to work with, Olvera said the school’s size is one of its best attributes.
“The small size of the district allows our staff to get to know each child as an individual. The specialized care, instruction and support fosters creative and confident learners that become successful leaders,” she said.
The size of the district also allows it to carry on community-minded traditions, like school lunches cooked from scratch on site and a Thanksgiving luncheon where the whole family is invited to share a meal at the school.