Los Al Unified starts school year; LAHS students attend class in new STEM building

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Los Alamitos High School freshman Arron Myers poses with his mother and grandmother for a picture taken by Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Andrew Pulver on August 15. Photo by Jeannette Andruss

Arron Myers had a big smile on his face as he arrived at Los Alamitos High School for the first day of the 2022-23 school year.

“I’m nervous … he’s excited,” Arron’s mother, Natasha Myers said with a smile after seeing her oldest child walk onto the LAHS campus for the first time on August 15.

Last year Arron was at Mayfair Middle School in Bellflower, she said. This year the avid dancer decided to come to LAHS to pursue performing arts. The freshman is going to be in the school’s award-winning show choir. “I just want success for my baby,” Myers said, sharing a feeling most parents know well, and added, “This is the right place for him.”

Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Andrew Pulver, Ed.D, greeted Arron and his family on campus, snapping photos of Arron and his mother and grandmother, to capture the start of his Griffin experience.

“We’re thrilled to welcome our students and families to the new year,” Pulver said in an interview.

The first day started with music at LAHS as the school’s band played for students entering campus. ASB members handed out donuts. Some LAHS staff members wore t-shirts that read, “Start with Hello.” LAHS Principal Christiana Kraus was one of them. She said the shirts were to ensure all students felt welcome. “We thought it was a perfect way to start the year,” Kraus said.

Students at Los Alamitos High School travel up and down the “grand staircase” of the new $67 million STEM building which opened to students for the first time on August 15. Photo by Jeannette Andruss

LAHS is one of the dozens of campuses in Orange County where school is back in session. Seven of the other Los Al USD campuses in Rossmoor, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach also welcomed students back on August 15. Weaver Elementary school started on August 3. The 2022-23 school year is now underway for more than half of the school districts in O.C. while three school districts don’t begin until September.

As Spotlight Schools reported last week, the school year starts with a relaxation of rules regarding Covid-19.  On August 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled new guidelines which include dropping the recommendation that students exposed to a Covid-19 positive person test to stay in class.

In response to the new CDC guidance, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in part of a statement: “While COVID continues to evolve, so has our understanding of the science and what it takes to return to school safely.” The California Department of Public Health has not altered its latest Covid-19 recommendations for schools which were released on June 30 and include keeping masks optional on campus.

It isn’t just Covid-19 that school administrators are preparing for. The monkeypox virus, which Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over, is also on the radar for some educators. According to the Voice of OC, the Santa Ana Unified School District trained staff and administrators to spot monkeypox symptoms and has monkeypox tests available upon request.

STEM BUILDING OPENS TO STUDENTS FOR FIRST TIME

The Los Alamitos USD is starting the year with a brand new $67 million STEM building at LAHS which opened to students for the first time on Monday.

Before, and after, the bell rang at 8:30 a.m., students were searching for their classes in the brand-new three-story structure, sometimes stopping to ask for directions. The gleaming modern building boasting a total of 30 classrooms and labs for math, biology, chemistry and more was built using bond funds.

The new $67 million STEM building at Los Al High School.
Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

“It’s a beautiful environment to provide such a state-of-the-art education to our students,” Principal Kraus said. She expressed gratitude to the community for their support in approving the 2018 Measure G that financed the STEM building.

Kraus said some students were chatting about how excited they were to have a class in the new building, even bragging if they had more than one.

Biology teacher Henry Awad was thrilled with his new classroom on the building’s second floor. “This room is amazing,” he enthused, noting the sunshine that poured into the lab through large windows.

It’s a big upgrade from the windowless “dungeon” Awad described as his old classroom. In fact, Awad shared that his former classroom was the exact same one he once occupied as a student years ago.

“I feel very blessed and I’m very excited for the kids,” Awad said in an interview as he waited for his first class of students to arrive.

Meanwhile, Awad’s wife, Shereen Awad, a chemistry teacher at the high school, already had students in her brand-new lab right across the hall. And down on the first floor of the STEM building, teacher Martin Valenzuela was setting up the new state-of-the-art robotics lab.

While the classrooms were ready for teachers and students on August 15, some parts of the building were not fully operational yet. That includes areas that will house administrative offices, a media center and the career center which are still being worked on including the installation of furniture, equipment and cabinets, painting and some finishing touches.

C.J. Knowland, the district’s point person on construction of the STEM building, is confident everything will be ready in time for next week’s Open House on August 24. That’s when the public is invited to tour the new STEM building at 6:15p.m. Knowland said work would continue to be done daily on the STEM building from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. after the standard school day ends.

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Los Al Unified starts school year; LAHS students attend class in new STEM building