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TUSD students get a safe start to new school year
First day of school pic1
The Turlock Fire Department welcomes students to Medeiros Elementary on the first day of school with help from its new principal, Anna Ellerson. - photo by Photo courtesy of TUSD

The first day of school is an exciting day for everyone, whether you’re a parent, teacher or student, but for Sumeet Singh, the day held extra significance this year. Monday was Singh’s first day as Walnut Elementary School’s newest principal, and already, he feels at home.

“Being at a new school can be difficult, but the staff here and the community at Walnut have been so welcoming and inviting that it feels like the smoothest transition,” said Singh. “I feel like I’ve been a part of this family for a long time.”

Walnut welcomed students back to its unique campus with Opening on the first day of school, where students learned a few new rules and even got to dance. Through the Discovery and Renaissance Magnet programs at Walnut, students are able to explore a variety of interests in the Science, Math, Engineering and Technology subjects as well as performing arts. During his first year as principal, Singh hopes to increase opportunities in the programs for all students while emphasizing STEAM throughout the campus.

“We want to let the two unique identities of these magnets continue to grow, and integrate them in some ways while working on developing as a STEAM school,” he said. “The great thing is we have so much to offer our students at Walnut. It’s a fun place to learn.”

Turlocker Ashley Kraut dropped her son off at school for his first day of first grade, and although he attended kindergarten at Walnut, the first day of school jitters never really disappear, she said.

“It’s still kind of nerve-wrecking,” said Kraut. “It’s always a new experience every year. It’s his first full day here, and his first time eating lunch at school so he’s excited about that.”

Kraut added that parking at Walnut was “challenging” due to the new security fencing installed over the summer, which now prevents parents and visitors from walking onto campus without checking in at the office first. The gate to the main drive through for the pick-up and drop-off of students, which previously was always open, is now locked until the final bell rings, meaning that the line of cars waiting to receive their children has been pushed back a bit further into the street, said Singh. Despite the changes, dismissal at the end of the school day went smoothly.

“There was a lot of planning over the summer to ensure we had routes and procedures we could communicate with our parents to ensure a smooth start, because it is something new,” said Singh. “There were some new things in place for parents to remember.”

The new security fencing was installed at other campuses throughout Turlock Unified School District as well, and is a product of Bond Measure N which has a focus on improving the safety features at elementary campuses.

“The purpose of the fencing is to limit access points during the instructional day so as to provide the safest possible environment for our students and staff,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor.

Like Walnut, the new fencing went over well at the other elementary sites, too, as the District office did not receive any calls of complaints, said Trainor.

“Overall, it was a smooth transition. We had a good team at Walnut who figured out the best way to bring students onto campus and dismiss them while ensuring they were safe during the school day,” said Singh.

At Walnut and other school sites throughout the District, the Turlock Police Department assisted with traffic safety, and the Turlock Fire Department welcomed students at Medeiros Elementary School with a red carpet fit for celebrities.

Walnut fifth grader Aubrey Garibay said she is most excited to learn about reading and art, as she and nearly 14,000 other TUSD students prepare to start the school year. She is especially thankful to continue her education at Walnut, she added.

“I like that we do talent shows and stuff,” said Garibay. “We do different events and I think it’s really awesome.”