East Carbon students board the school bus to travel to Bruin Point Elementary. As with all other students in the district they will arrive at school to find new programs aimed at promoting higher core testing scores.
As the "No Child Left Behind" educational initiative becomes more deeply immersed in elementary education local schools are adapting to the program's rigorous testing and seeing improvement across the board.
"I really want to highlight the successes of our school," said a beaming Mellisa Hamilton, Bruin Point Elementary principal. "Both academically and geo-socially we continue to see students improve. There are special challenges that come along with elementary schooling in an area with the social problems East Carbon faces, but the numbers show we are rising to face those challenges."
The school as a whole is provided free lunch and breakfast because more than 70 percent of the Bruin students qualify for state assistance. But according to both city and school officials the elementary is working to change their reputation despite these hurdles.
"We registered 16 new kids for school this year not counting kindergarten," said Hamilton. "That leads me to believe that Carbon residents have taken notice of the improvement in this school."
As Hamilton diagrammed the rising of elementary students test scores she talked about the difficulties that can arise at a small school.
"Here at Bruin Point we have to monitor every child that comes through that door as if they were the most important student in this school," explained the principal. "Our staff, who I would measure against any other staff in the district, has made a commitment to every student because if just one student is failing at a school this size it shows up as a large percentage."
To combat problems that are affecting not only the school but state and national institutions as a whole, Hamilton is strictly enforcing the district's attendance policy.
"I am willing to do what it takes to make sure that these kids attend school because to be very plain, they need to be in their seats if we are going to teach them," said Hamilton. "The educational programs are very strict in their methods, the lessons build upon one another and if a student is missing a significant amount of school it is not something that can be fixed with a take-home worksheet, the kids have to be here."
The district's policy can be enforced by the court system if parents do not comply by its guidelines.
"Taking a position at a school with special needs means that you are taking on more than just job," explained Hamilton. "This school is a huge part of the growing success of this community. It is the one place where East Carbon and Sunnyside really do come together completely and I strongly feel that with the team of teachers we have put together here things are only going to continue to get better."
In addition to a new library, the technology instituted by the district at Bruin Point is state-of-the-art, from smartboards to advanced computer labs, students are being afforded the opportunity to move seamlessly into a technically savvy world.
The smartboards are a highly interactive piece of equipment that are used on conjunction with school computers to project images onto a large scene that can be used by touch. So far school officials have been highly impressed with the way students have reacted to the learning tool.
Additionally, the district is in the process of changing its image from one of an old country schoolhouse to an advanced logo that states, "Making Connections with the World."
According to both Hamilton and Carbon District Superintendent Patsy Bueno, the change is meant to show that local students are being prepared to compete in a global job market.
"The new lesson plans can seem very strict to teachers, parents and students, but they are constructed with the idea of keeping our kids up to snuff with the rest of the world," said Hamilton. "The competition out there is very tough and we need to make sure our kids can compete with anybody."
While the school is seeing progress in many areas there are some struggles to still be contended with.
Hamilton reported that the school is seeing more students that do not use English as their first language, a situation she says the school is ready to meet head on.
Also there is a growing issue of space at the new school.
"If I were to get 20 more students I would have to get very creative with space," said Hamilton.
When asked about the situation, superintendent Bueno stated that the district is and will be ready for growth in the eastern part of the county.
"If the students come we will adapt either by looking at further construction or moving in modular classrooms," said Bueno.
The district does have property around the new building that would allow for additional construction and modular learning sites have been employed by almost every school in the district.