Sonoma County students head back to school

  • David Garcia, 4, clings to his mother, Brenda, while being dropped off for the first day of kindergarten in Jose Sevilla's class at Cesar Chavez Language Academy in Santa Rosa, California on Thursday, August 15, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

There are letters on the bright blue rug, children are sitting criss-cross-applesauce and the laminated pictures on the wall have the familiar images typical to a kindergarten classroom.

But a closer look reveals something different: the word "green" is followed by "verde," the classroom door is labeled "puerta" and the wall calendar is turned to "agosto."

And the 13 children in Christina Cena's classroom are being spoken to almost exclusively in Spanish.

First Day Of School In Sonoma County


Thursday marked the first day of school for the new Cesar Chavez Language Academy, a Spanish-language dual-immersion program launched by Santa Rosa City Schools this year.

"It's just a great opportunity," said Amy Yamauchi of Santa Rosa, who dropped her only son, Nicolai Lopez-Yamauchi, off for his first day of kindergarten Thursday. "I think you should be able to speak as many languages as possible. It opens up your possibilities."

The opening of Cesar Chavez Academy on Thursday marks the second time in two years that Sonoma County's largest school district has launched a dual-immersion language school. The Santa Rosa French-American Charter School opened last year with 243 students and on Thursday had 357 students enrolled in kindergarten through seventh grades.

Thursday marked the first day of school not only for the one transitional kindergarten and three kindergarten classes at the Cesar Chavez Language Academy, but all Santa Rosa City Schools, as well as students in the Mark West and Healdsburg districts.

The largest wave of students heading back to school in Sonoma County hits Wednesday, when 19 districts, including Petaluma, Cotati-Rohnert Park, Roseland, Sebastopol, Sonoma Valley and Cloverdale will send approximately 33,400 students back to class.

"There's a happy buzz by both staff and students," said Santa Rosa Superintendent Socorro Shiels, who visited a handful of schools Thursday.

Teachers and students were "very quickly back to the routine," she said.

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