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Hamilton High: ‘We're here to graduate'
Hamilton Unified School District students appeared at ease on Monday, just hours into their first day of school.
Freshmen and sophomores at Hamilton High plan to spend the first few weeks settling into work routines, while junior and seniors hit the ground running on homework and special projects.
"I'm really excited," said senior Clara Castillo, 17. "It's my last year."
Students say there is something entirely unique about Glenn County's eastern hamlet and its high school.
Unlike Willows and Orland, students entering Hamilton High may not have known each other growing up.
The high school population is made up of students who graduated from Capay and Plaza elementary schools, in addition to Hamilton City's.
In a school as small as Hamilton High, however, students say it only takes a short time to become a cohesive group, which is reflected not only in its school spirit, but its performance.
"My whole family graduated from Hamilton," said sophomore Camie Mendon, 15, of Orland. "I like the small school setting. I think you get a better education."
Hamilton High School Principal Cris Oseguera agrees the small school has its advantages.
With less than 300 students, the school can boast a state distinguished school title and small class sizes — even in tough budget times — and has the highest academic performance scores among the high schools in Glenn County.
"Every school has good qualities," Oseguera said, "but a small school has the advantage of allowing more rapport to build between teachers and students."
The value in that is reflected on academic performance, Oseguera said, and will be equally important as students soon face more testing when the school transitions to the national Common Core State Standards as part of its regular curriculum.
Freshmen at Hamilton High said they have four years to look forward to, regardless of the changes and plan to use that time charting their course in life.
"We're here to graduate," said Nitza Cabral, 14. "That is what we're going to do."
While at high school, students said they will make the most of their time, whether it's playing sports or cheerleading, attending dances and rallies and taking course that will help them get into and succeed in college.
At Hamilton City's elementary and middle school, about 450 students enjoyed their first day of school Monday, with Hamilton Unified School District Superintendent Charles Tracy at the helm.
Tracy is acting as principal until the school board selects a replacement for Maria Diaz, who left for another position in July.
Like all California schools, adjusting to budget cuts is its own challenge, but Tracy said he's determined not to let it impact the students.
"We provide a very safe environment for kids," Tracy said. "Even with a few combined classes, our class sizes are still below other schools. We have great veteran teachers and a staff that works very hard to support us."
Tracy said with the support of parents and the community, Hamilton Unified students are given the best opportunity to learn.
The best news for the school year, however, is the district's receipt of $600,000 in e-rate funding to bring the schools technology up to speed.
The district share of cost was $60,000.
Tracy called the new technology a "Maserati" to what the district had before, and allows district officials to have email addresses separate from the county Office of Education.
"If it was fast before, it's even faster now," Tracy said.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.