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First Day Of School For San Diego Unified Students

The new school year began Tuesday for children who attend class in the San Diego Unified School District.

Aired 9/4/12 on KPBS News.

The new school year begins today for children who attend class in the San Diego Unified School District.

Their schools will mostly have familiar faculties after the district struck a deal with the San Diego Education Association to retain around 1,500 instructors in exchange for salary concessions.

Before the first bell rang, principals like Flavia Soria were greeting new and returning students and their families across San Diego.

Soria is starting her fourth year as principal at Kimborough Elementary in Sherman Heights. At the beginning of the summer, budget cuts were going to force class size increases at the campus, which would have lost 11 teachers. That was averted thanks to the teachers union deal.

“Fortunately they were all recalled," Soria said. "So now I’ve got my classrooms back at 20-to-1 in K-3 and 30-to-1 in the upper grades, so I’m very fortunate.”

Schools Superintendent Bill Kowba was also on hand for the first day at Kimborough. He said those recalled teachers have made the district’s test score and attendance improvements possible, even as schools face more financial uncertainty.

“Thank goodness the teaching staff for the last half dozen years has stayed focused on academics even though the budget has been the big gorilla in the room," he said. "We’re hopeful about November and about a ballot measure passing that would help to stabilize funding, but it’s not in our hands. We just gotta focus on teaching.”

Voters will weigh in on two competing ballot measures in November. Each would raise taxes to support education.

The first day of the school year will also bring a new site for requests for documentation for those who want to take advantage of President Barack Obama's "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals'' program. Prospective applicants under DACA will be directed to the Ballard Ballard Parent Center at 2375 Congress St. in Old Town.

The program allows undocumented immigrants up to the age of 31 who came to the United States with their parents to defer deportation for two years under certain conditions. Among the records required of applicants is proof of school attendance.

SDUSD spokeswoman Linda Zintz said records of current or recent students are accessible via computer, but documents of older applicants may me available in the form of paper documents stored in a warehouse. That could cause delays, she said.

Applicants will need to bring to the new center an original birth certificate and photo identification and know which school they attended and when. There is no charge for the service, which will be conducted by Spanish- speaking staff. The location will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

Also today, the Board of Education will hold its first meeting of the semester. The agenda includes a resolution to prohibit the use of capital appreciation bonds -- the type that caused an uproar in the Poway Unified School District because of stiff repayment requirements -- in future SDUSD bond issues. The district has a construction bond measure set for the November election.

Another proposed resolution would declare Sept. 11 a day of remembrance and instruct teachers to develop lesson plans about the response of authorities and citizens to the terrorist attacks.

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