Back to school

Students of all ages get ready for the classroom

Summer vacation is quickly winding down and it's time to start preparing for the upcoming academic year. With tight budgets for both families and schools, things may be a little different when it comes to learning the ABCs and 123s.

Class is in session Aug. 25 for nearly 15,000 Pleasanton Unified School District students. Some students may come to find that a favorite teacher is no longer at school, the classrooms may feel more crowded and a popular program may be reduced or completely cut. These changes are the result of tough decisions made by the district and its school board, who had to balance a budget despite receiving significantly less funding from the state in the 2009-10 school year.

"We look forward to the students returning," said Superintendent John Casey. "People in education have big hearts and they will give kids the best experience possible."

While there may be more students in classrooms and fewer opportunities to see counselors, Casey said that a Pleasanton education is a cut above the rest despite the budget setbacks.

Even though teachers, staff and students are coming back from the summer break, it was hardly a vacation for those trying to bring back some programs through the I Love Pleasanton Schools fundraiser. Starting with a kick-off rally in June, the campaign attempted to raise $2.8 million by today through local foundations Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) and Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment (PSEE). Although the group had a boost in support after a well-attended downtown carnival on Saturday, the group reached $380,000 as of Wednesday.

Debi Covello, executive director of PPIE, said the carnival was a big success, bringing in $15,000, which was more than they had anticipated.

"The dunk tank was the most popular," she aid.

Covello also recalls during a final cleaning sweep through Main Street that downtown was still buzzing at 10:30 p.m.

As of Wednesday, Covello said that donations were coming in by the hour, as people were realizing the deadline was quickly approaching. The first meeting of the PUSD school board is Tuesday night, where they will likely discuss the fundraising and how the money would be distributed to the programs.

While students will likely notice a different level of programs and services this year, Covello said that even though the goal wasn't reached, every dollar will help.

"Everyone's disappointed with the overall number," she said. "But I think it was an all-out effort. Certainly there will be an improvement to the programs.

"There's a realization that the need is so great, it's a state budget issue that can't really be solved by personal donations," she added.

Stoneridge Shopping Center also got in on the ILPS fundraising by combining it with a fun late summer ritual: back to school shopping. In addition to a fashion show highlighting clothing from mall stores, the festivities included makeovers, crafts, airbrush tattoos, caricature artists, a private school and educational fair, and a cheesecake walk. A total of $800 raised from the event was donated to PPIE.

The mall also helped a Pleasanton student in her quest for higher education, as recent Amador Valley High School graduate and senior officer Olivia Baeza was awarded a $1,400 scholarship from Stoneridge Shopping Center's Simon Youth Foundation.

For those recent graduates who are staying closer to home, the fall semester at Las Positas College in Livermore started today, while Cal State East Bay students get a longer break with classes starting Sept. 23.

Las Positas College is expecting to see an increase in attendance this semester, which may be because young people aren't the only ones to further their education. Recent data shows that 40 percent of California community college students are 22 to 39 and 13 percent are 40 or older.

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