With school starting for most kids today, Othello School District Superintendent George Juarez wants students and parents to know about the big developments they can expect to see this school year. Juarez said the district is in a period of change in terms of growing class sizes and new classes offered at schools, but that for the most part, this year should be like any other year. "We're trying to make sure our schools stay balanced, which has become difficult," he said. "We've had to deal with some additional requests for children who live in the Lutacaga zone who were not selected for the dual language program. They had to be placed in another elementary." The district didn't hire as many individual teachers as they have inprevious years, but did create seven new positions to allow room for growth. "We've had a long hiring season," Juarez said. "This year, as we did last year, we added seven positions throughout the district, some at the elementary level and some at the secondary, to accommodate the growth we've had." Examples of that growth include a total of 420 kindergarten students registering for classes throughout all four elementary schools. That number exceeded the projected enrollment by 40 new students. "On paper, at least, we're higher than we projected," Juarez said. "That's putting some strain on some of our kindergarten classes so we'll have to go into discussions about staffing." Juarez said School Improvement Plan (SIP) teams made up of administrators, principals and teachers are looking to the future, as well. SIPs gather data on student success in a wide variety of areas to see where certain areas of their education may or may not need to be refined to meet their needs. "They'll have to analyze their specific data at each grade level to determine how to adjust their instruction to help our students," Juarez said. Many schools are also implementing or improving new programs and courses this year. Some of those include an expanded Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program at the high school level, the new introductory Spanish course offered at the middle school and a new portable near Lutacaga Elementary School that will serve as the Targeted Learning Center for eighth-grade students that provides educational assistance to students similar to what's offered at the newly-named Desert Oasis High School. As a former Spanish teacher, Juarez is also excited to see how Lutacaga reacts to becoming a full-fledged dual language school. A separate article in this issue discusses many of the potential building projects being considered within the district, but Juarez said the district is committed to meeting all the needs that growing student populations are putting on the buildings and staff. "The one thing I've learned over the last couple years is that we're in a state of change and part of it is because of student population growth," he said. "In terms of facilities, we're always going to try to stay ahead of this growth we're experiencing."