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It's Reading, Writing, Repairs at Schools


MOORPARK — Many of the 65,000 east county youngsters returning to school Wednesday shared campuses with bulldozers and construction workers as modernization projects continued at many campuses.

Workers spent the day fixing roofs, repairing restrooms, installing portable classrooms and replacing air-conditioning systems under projects funded by state and local bond money.

In the Hueneme Elementary School District, for example, renovations were underway in several classrooms at Bard School and at a cafeteria and office at Hollywood Beach School. Some Bard students started the day in temporary rooms so workers could install new doors, windows, sinks, cabinets and telephones in their classrooms.

"It's a tough way to begin the year," Associate Supt. Jeff Baarstad said. "But it's just about impossible to finish projects in the summer. Our construction schedule is pretty condensed."

And in Conejo Valley Unified, construction workers are completing projects at 11 schools, including adding classrooms at Redwood Middle and installing a new air-conditioning system at Newbury Park High.

At Chaparral Middle School in Moorpark, workers are building a new gymnasium, which students and teachers hope will be done by the end of the year. Lissa Crowell, whose classroom is next to the construction site, said she just zones out the rumbling of machines while she teaches science. During the first day, she had her students pretend to be working at the Centers for Disease Control and searching for a virus.

Nick Zugsmith, 12, one of Crowell's science students, said the noise of the construction is annoying.

"I can't stand the beeping of the trucks," he said.

In addition to working around construction projects Wednesday, Chaparral teachers focused on making their students comfortable for the new school year. Veteran math teacher Rick Kent wrote on the chalkboard a tip for his students, many of whom bit their fingernails and tapped their feet during his class.

"Holy smokes--relax," the note read. "It really is the end of the millennium. And this year will be great!! So smile. No frowning on the first day."

As an eighth-grader, Scott Smith said he didn't need any reassurance.

"We're the top dogs on campus," he said. "We're gonna rule the school."

At a few campuses, the students were more comfortable than some of the teachers.

John Downing, a first-year history teacher at Royal High School in Simi Valley, said he's still trying to figure out how to use the phone, the clock and the air-conditioning. His next task seems a bit more daunting: figuring out how to get dozens of high school students excited about world history.

Seth Arnold, 15, had mixed feelings about sitting through history class. The good part: seeing his best friends. The bad part: doing homework.

Ashlynn Zwick, 14, said she was excited to be in 10th-grade because she was "a little closer to graduating."

At the end of one class, Downing complimented his students for behaving so well, though he knows the honeymoon won't last.

"I love how well you all listen the first day," he told them. "I hope you're half as good during the rest of the school year."

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