It's that time of year again...


Analy High School in Sebastopol opens on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 7:35 a.m. Back to School Night is Thursday, Aug. 29, at 6 p.m. Showcase Night is Thursday, Oct. 10, at 6 p.m. A new principal, Shauna Ferdinanson, will be welcoming the students. Ferdinanson is new to the position, but not the school. She was Analy’s Vice Principal and is a former teacher at Analy. (See our profile of her, “A Matter of Principal” at She is joined by new Vice Principal Erin Elliott, who also taught at Analy. In addition, there is a new guidance counselor, Elissa Beamish, and 13 new teachers, including Casey Jones, the new band instructor.

El Molino High School in Forestville will welcome students and four new teachers on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 7:35 a.m. Back to School night is Thursday, Sept. 5, at 6 p.m. Showcase Night is Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 6 p.m. “We are very excited that our new El Molino Performing Arts Center is nearing completion,” said Toni Beal, superintendent of the West Sonoma County Union High School District. The 9,000 square-foot, 298-seat facility is the first of its kind for the high school and will be used for school arts productions, assemblies and presentations, as well as being available to the community.

 Laguna High School, Sebastopol’s continuation high school, starts the new school year on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 7:35 a.m. The Back-to-School BBQ is Tuesday, Aug. 27, at noon. Lindsey Apkarian is starting her second year as Principal at Laguna High School with all of her current staff returning.

 All three of the high schools have had new security cameras and vape detection devices installed over the summer.


Brook Haven Middle School opens its doors on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8:20 a.m. with several new teachers, including Elisanne Wells-Garcia (fifth grade), Sarah Castaneda (sixth grade) and Madeleine O’Rear (sixth grade). Resource Specialist Ali Alvarado will also join the staff. Analy High School teachers Andy Del Monte, Casey Jones and Tera Crawford will be offering elective programs at Brook Haven this year. Electives include choir, band, art, video production and woodshop.

Willowside Middle School will welcome students on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 9 a.m. The start of school was delayed to allow completion of major construction projects begun over the summer, including six new classrooms. Back to School Night is Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. First day packets can be picked up beginning Aug. 12 at the district office or parents can download the forms from the district’s website, Assistance with completing back-to-school packets and forms will be available at the school on Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Hillcrest Charter Middle School starts the school year on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 8:25 a.m. Back-to-School Night is Thursday, Aug. 22, from 5 to 6 p.m. “We are so excited for all of the changes and improvements we have made in the Gravenstein Union School District,” said District Superintendent Keri Pugno. A new Spanish teacher and additional classroom instructional assistants have joined the staff. The STREAM lab (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) has been updated and expanded. Other new additions include a video production lab, multiple 3-D printers, laser cutters, computers, film equipment and robotics equipment.  Also, the popular ENRICH! Creative Arts Magnet Program is being expanded to all students, beginning with kindergarten. Solar projects have been installed in the parking lot.

Twin Hills Charter Middle School opens its doors on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 9 a.m. Twin Hills continues to offer electives in culinary arts, video production and Spanish.


Harmony Elementary School (TK, K-1) and Salmon Creek School (2-8) kick off the school year on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8:30 a.m. Back-to-School Night is Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m. A new superintendent/principal, Matthew Morgan, will greet the students this year. He was formerly the executive director/principal of Live Oak Charter School in Petaluma. The school also welcomes a new business manager, Stacy Kalember. Work has been completed on the first projects funded under the newly approved bond measure, including new roofing, new carpets and deferred maintenance. Prizes for winners in Salmon Creek’s summer reading program will be announced during the September school assembly.

REACH Charter School (TK, K-8) begins on Thursday Aug. 15, which is also an early dismissal day. Here are start and end times for the various grades: transitional kindergarten (TK) and kindergarten, 8:20 a.m. start, 12:10 p.m. early dismissal; first grade, 8:10 a.m. start, 12:20 p.m. early dismissal; second through fourth grades, 8 a.m. start, 12:30 p.m. early dismissal; fifth grade, 8 a.m. start, 12:30 p.m. early dismissal; sixth through eighth grades, 8 a.m. start, 12:30 p.m. early dismissal. A Back-to-School Community Gathering takes place on Friday, Aug. 9, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A popsicle party for the TK, kindergarten and first grades will be held just before that at 4:30 p.m. on the K-1 playground.

Sebastopol Independent Charter School (K-8) This public Waldorf school opens on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 8:30 a.m. for kindergarten through third grade, and at 8:20 a.m. for fourth through eighth grades. The New Parent Welcome Tea is on Friday, Aug. 23, at 8:45 a.m. The Rose Ceremony, in which eighth graders welcome first graders by giving each one a rose, is on Friday, Aug. 30. There is a new first grade teacher, and improvements are still being made to the school grounds, including a new playground. The school opened at this location a year ago from its former home in downtown Sebastopol.

Guerneville School (TK, K-8) starts the school year on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8 a.m. The Welcome Back Day and BBQ is Tuesday, Aug. 13 with sixth grade orientation at 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; kindergarten through second grade, 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; third grade through fifth grade, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and the BBQ, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The school will be open from 5 p.m to 6 p.m. New principal, Joelene Morasch, will be there to greet the students. Joelene has been a teacher for 18 years, the last four at Guerneville. The school also welcomes three new teachers: Justin Brown (fifth grade), Patrick Daniels, (STEAM Lab lead teacher) and Kara Dillinger (second and third grades). The school is expanding two of its core programs to all students, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), which helps students prepare for college, and a new STEAM  lab, which for the first time will have its own full-time teacher. The school is expanding its Boys and Girls Club to offer before-school care as well as after-school care. The school is in Phase 2 of its solar power program and has installed four charging stations for electric vehicles.

Monte Rio Union School (K-8) welcomes students on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 8:30 a.m. The first three days of school will have an early dismissal time of 1:30 p.m. Back-to-School Night is Thursday, Sept. 5, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Principal/ Superintendent Nathan Myers said the summer has been busy with new construction. “We have new roofs, a new gym floor, music room floor and kitchen floor. The kitchen also has new modern upgrades. We have also made improvements to our landscaping and amphitheater located on our grass field. New built-in lunch tables will be installed in the gym, and security systems are in place to keep the students and staff safe,” he said. The school will be initiating Phase 2 of its Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS), which gives students tools to communicate effectively and demonstrates how positive behavior, not negative behavior, helps them achieve their desired outcomes. Monte Rio is also introducing Freckle Education, a program that measures a student’s academic level and creates a specific set of lessons to help them progress. Counseling hours are being increased, and the school is looking for ways to provide parenting classes through the West County Community Services.

Forestville School (K-8) opens its doors on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8:30 a.m.  for seventh and eighth grades and at 8:35 a.m. for TK through sixth grade.  A Back-to-School BBQ will be held on Monday, Aug. 12, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Seventh and eighth graders will be returning to Forestville School this year, following the dissolution of the West County Charter Middle School, which met on the same campus. Two new teachers, Stacey Blum and Jennifer Hunter, will be teaching the seventh and eighth graders. Improvements over the summer include new blacktop and restriping in the parking lot and play areas, so students will be able to enjoy basketball, four-square and the play areas. “We are really excited to be welcoming our new preschool, TK and K students, and all of our new students and families to our district.  Additionally, we are also really looking forward to having our grades seven and eight back as part of Forestville Union School District!” said incoming District Superintendent Renee Semik. (See a profile of Semik on page 1.)

Orchard View School (K-12), an independent study school, will open its doors on Friday, Aug. 23, when students will meet with their supervising teacher to receive their lessons for the next two weeks. Students also have the opportunity take classes on the campus. High school students attend Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Elementary students attend on Tuesday and Thursday.

SunRidge School (K-8), a public Waldorf school, begins on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 8:25 a.m.


Park Side Elementary School begins on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 8:30 a.m. with new opportunities for the younger students — a Kinder Bridge program for all incoming kindergarteners (who are new to the campus) and transitional kindergartners (students who will turn 5 between Sept. 1 and March 1). The addition of new teacher Heather Noyes will allow the school to accept additional kindergarteners this year while keeping class sizes below 20 students. Also joining the Park Side staff is teacher Jessica Pearsall, who will support third- and fourth-grade students. For more information about Kinder Bridge or enrollment, call the district office at 707-829-4570.

Apple Blossom School starts on Thursday, Aug. 15. Kindergarten through Third grade start at 8:45 a.m., and fourth and fifth grades start at 8:30 a.m. “We are excited about the Apple Blossom Maker Space being stocked and ready to provide engaging problem-solving and creative activities for our students,” said Barbara Bickford, superintendent of Twin Hills Union School District. Many classrooms are now including the coding program Tynker, in their curriculum.  Apple Blossom students also will participate in the Peacemaker student leadership program. Upper elementary students will be trained to solve problems and provide communication leadership on the playground. Yard duty staff will also be trained. The playground is newly painted with peaceful playground activities and a peace path to encourage a safe school climate.

Gravenstein Elementary School starts the school year on Wednesday, Aug. 14.  TK and Kindergarten start at 8:45 a.m. First and second grades begin at 8:30 a.m. and third through fifth grades start at 8:15 a.m. It’s a big year for the school — new programs and classes are being offered, more instructional assistants have been hired and a full-time district counselor is on hand. “We are so excited for this upcoming year. It is going to be great,” said Keri Pugno, superintendent of the Gravenstein Union School District. The overwhelmingly popular ENRICH! Creative Arts Magnet Program is being expanded to all students, beginning with kindergarten. There is a new physical education program, new playground equipment and an updated social-emotional learning curriculum. Solar projects have been installed on the roof of two wings of the school. To help harried parents, a free bus shuttle will run each afternoon taking Gravenstein students to Hillcrest Middle School, so parents need make only one stop. Daycare costs are being decreased for any TK/K student with older siblings.

Oak Grove Elementary School begins on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 8:30 a.m. Back-to-School Nights are Thursday, Sept. 12, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., for TK through second grade; and Thursday, Sept. 19, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., for third through fifth grades. The school year begins late this year to allow completion of summertime construction projects. The District is replacing the roof on several buildings and completing Phase I of its solar project. The school is also introducing several new adaptive software programs to provide differentiation and enrichment experiences through the fine arts program. First day packets can be picked up early beginning Monday, Aug. 12, at the district office or parents can visit the website to download the forms at Assistance is available for completing back-to-school packets and forms on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 9 a.m. to noon at Oak Grove Elementary.

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