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Calaveras/AAA celebrate ‘homecoming’ on first day of school

Hollister School District started 2022-23 year on Aug. 17 

A group of fifth-graders at Calaveras Elementary School celebrate their return to school on Aug. 17. Photo: Chris Mora

The first day of the new school year Aug. 17 at Calaveras Elementary and Accelerated Achievement Academy went exactly as the schools’ principals expected: full of joy, excitement and sense of community that the 700-student campus is known for.

Starting at about 7:45am—as soon as the gates opened—students from Transitional Kindergarten through 8th grade began filtering onto the Buena Vista Road campus from multiple directions. The younger Calaveras Elementary students—some with their parents or grandparents—gathered on the school’s outdoor recreation courtyard, hugging, high-fiving and smiling at their classmates and teachers on the way.

Calaveras’ new custodian, Felipe Mercado, dressed in the school’s mascot, the Cougar, was there to greet and take photos with excited students. Teachers handed out new pencils to the children while directing them to the correct spot to line up for their new classrooms. 

Principal Ken Woods said all of Calaveras’ teachers from last year returned for the 2022-23 school year, and all “were so excited to be here” for their first early morning influx of students since the spring.

“I had so many kids and parents coming up to me for a high five. It felt like a real family homecoming event,” Woods said. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Accelerated Achievement Academy Principal Scott Wilbur agreed. He said it was uplifting to see the campus’ older students so eager to help and welcome the younger ones, and to watch kids and their families flood the campus together—without restrictions or hesitation for the first time since the pandemic started.

“It really was like a return to everyone being together,” Wilbur said.

Both Wilbur and Woods are in their sixth year as principals at the Calaveras/AAA campus. While Calaveras and AAA are two separate schools, their faculties work together and share a campus. Many of the students at AAA—which is open to grades 5th through 8th—are Calaveras Elementary alumni.

About 700 students attend the schools on the northeast Hollister campus.

The AAA curriculum largely consists of “project based learning” that aims to engage students in solving problems or answering complex questions by focusing on assignments over extended periods of time, explains the school’s website.

Wilbur said for 2022-23, the school is in its second year of programming with robots. This is also AAA’s third year with 3D printing and scanning classes. And he expects college field trips to resume this year.

“We’ve got a lot of good, hands-on science this year,” Wilbur said.

Calaveras and AAA are among the 10 school sites in Hollister School District, all of which started the 2022-23 year on Aug. 17. Other schools in HSD are Cerra Vista, Hollister Dual Language Academy, Ladd Lane, Marguerite Maze, R O Hardin, Rancho San Justo, Sunnyslope and Rancho Santana.

Fourth-grader Jeramiah Casarez is happy to see his classmates as he returns to Calaveras Elementary Aug. 17 for the 2022-23 school year. Photo: Chris Mora
Calaveras Elementary fourth-graders Hayley and Saidee take some time before their first bell to chat on Aug. 17. Photo: Chris Mora
Eduardo (white shirt), a fourth-grader at Calaveras Elementary, eagerly lines up at the school’s outdoor recreation yard for his first class Aug. 17. Photo: Chris Mora
Teachers welcomed their students and greeted parents at Calaveras Elementary School’s outdoor recreation yard on the first day of school Aug. 17. Photo: Chris Mora
Accelerated Achievement Academy Principal Scott Wilbur (right, wearing blue shirt) stops to chat with students and parents the morning of Aug. 17, the first day back on campus for the 2022-23 year. Photo: Chris Mora
Calaveras Elementary fourth grade teachers Megan Avery, Wendy Bell and Lindsey Graves stop for a photo during the busy first morning of the school year Aug. 17. Photo: Chris Mora