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School year starts

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  • Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary fifth-grade teacher John Turrietta decorates his classroom. This is Turrietta’s 20th year teaching in Rio Rancho Public Schools and his first at the school. “I know it’s time to come back when I see kids on the street and I wonder what their reading level is,” he said. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

  • School bus driving instructor John Emory, second from left, talks to trainees Miguel Chavez, left, and Dennis Lorenzini. All 84 school buses have been cleaned and prepped for the first day of school Wednesday. Elementary school students will start on Aug. 18. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

  • Camilla Gonzales-Pheifer, a kindergarten teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, puts up letters in her classroom. “That first smile,” she said, is her favorite part of meeting her new students on the first day of school. Rio Rancho Public Schools elementary students return Aug. 18. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Summer will come to a close for the city’s oldest students Wednesday when Rio Rancho Public Schools’ 21st year kicks off.

Elementary children report to class Aug. 18.

Kim Vesely, spokeswoman for the Rio Rancho Public Schools district, said the biggest change for the coming school year is how students will be tested to determine whether they are performing at grade level.

The state has discarded the Standards Based Assessment and instead will use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The new test will be taken online and is expected to be more rigorous.

Vesely said schools will practice taking online tests throughout the year.

Public school students in grades three though eight and grades 10 and 11 will take the test.

Parents of elementary students at Rio Rancho, Puesta del Sol, Colinas del Norte, Ernest Stapleton, Maggie Cordova and Martin Luther King Jr. can expect changes to the schools’ entrances.

Al Sena, the district’s executive director of facilities, said RRPS is in the process of reconfiguring the entrances at each of those schools to make them safer.

Sena said all schools require visitors to stop at the front office, but they can bypass the office.

The changes will force visitors to check in with staff first before roaming the school.

The new entrances create a set of doors that will be locked and will funnel parents into the front office, through which they can enter the school.

“We are making it so the doorways for those exiting will work, but they will be locked for those entering,” he said. “We are doing this for security reasons.”

Schools, Sena said, can leave the doors unlocked during special events.

The district received $680,000 from the Legislature for the project.

The district will celebrate its two decades in business during a welcome-back event for staff at the Santa Ana Star Center at 1 p.m. Monday.

Officials have invited former staff and community members who were instrumental in the start of the district.

RRPS broke off from Albuquerque Public Schools in 1993 and began operating in 1994.

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