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Drought is cause of enrollment decline at some California schools

LA School Report | September 10, 2015

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the atlanticBy Mareesa Nicosia

FIVE POINTS, Calif.—It’s 7:50 on a hot, dry August morning when the buses rumble past a barren field—normally filled with broccoli this time of year—and creak to a stop in front of a flat-topped school, dust blooming up from under their wheels.

Children spill out, the older ones eager to greet familiar teachers. Parents and shy kindergartners congregate around the superintendent and the principal, Baldomero (“Baldo”) Hernandez, who pats shoulders and shakes hands, bending down to welcome the smallest students, like a pastor whose flock has finally returned.

It’s the first day of school at Westside Elementary and Hernandez counts fewer kids than ever climbing off the buses. The buzz of “¿Buenos días?” and “¿Cómo estás?” breaks the yawning stillness that has settled in this stretch of dusty farming country in the San Joaquin Valley. The 27,000-square-mile region stretches from Sacramento to Bakersfield and lies within the larger Central Valley, the epicenter of California’s four-year drought.

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