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Revamping registration: Buena principal Hale lays out new plan for student signups

SIERRA VISTA — From the end of July through the first weeks of August, Buena High School’s registration woes were the talk of the town. On Tuesday, Principal Kristen Hale addressed the Sierra Vista Unified School District board and the public about what turned the start of the new school year sour and how they plan to fix the problem for next academic year.

“(It’s) something we’ve struggled with for a long time,” Hale said about Buena’s registration. “Our staff disliked it as much, if not more, as everyone else.”

Leading up to the start of the school year, Buena students and parents waited in lines for hours to see counselors, pay fees, get their ID cards and have their pictures taken.

Hale said some of the factors for the long lines were an increase of 167 students in “less than two weeks prior to school starting, limited staff available to assist and multiple students in a household.”

In an effort to “significantly reduce” the wait times and stress in the beginning of the school year, Hale and a team of Buena administrators and faculty came up with a new registration plan that eliminates parents from having to step foot onto the school grounds, with the exception of incoming freshmen.

Scheduling

Current students at the high school will work with a counselor throughout the year to build their schedule in order to ensure graduation requirements are met. Hale said the schedule will then be available, at a date that has not been determined yet, for parents to see the choices their student made.

At that point, parents will be able to contact counselors with changes that need to be made. However, schedules will be subject to change, as final versions will not be distributed until the end of June or early July.

“This will significantly reduce lines and need for counseling meetings,” Hale told the board.

Incoming freshmen will no longer build their schedules on their own. Hale has created a team of “welcome ambassadors,” which is comprised of administrators, teachers and counselors, to help eighth grade-students build their schedule for the following year.

“We’ll bring welcome ambassadors to (each of the schools) or they can come to (Buena),” Hale said.

These sessions will be held throughout the course of the school year, beginning in early April, for both parents and their student to attend.

Fees

Because the fee line was one of the longer lines throughout registration week, Buena is changing their policy and will not accept payments until after the 10-day drop period. Hale said that with the number of changes made to schedules, many refunds had to be made, prompting the change.

Fees will be able to be paid online or at the Student Services office. Decisions on the software are still being made, as school administrators work on finding a “more user friendly option.”

ID Cards

Students will be given new ID cards their freshman and their junior year, rather than every year. They will be color coded to indicate which grade the student is in and instead of have the academic year on them they will have “Class Of” on them.

Hale said if a student needs a new card because their appearance has changed significantly and security or administration deems they need a new card, they will get a replacement at no charge.

Pictures

Yearbook pictures will be taken during the school year rather than before. There will also be opportunities for make-ups during evening events.

Hale and her staff are determine to have a positive experience for students and parents at the start of the school year.

“They will have everything when they start and we won’t have a negative start to the year,” Hale said. “We’re literally starting from scratch this year.”

SVUSD board members Hollie Sheriff and Yolanda Boutte shared some concerns after Hale’s presentation. Sheriff questioned Hale whether or not there was a backup plan in case there were to be a glitch or something were to go wrong — hinting at the glitch in the scheduling software that occured at the start of registration.

Boutte asked if there is a way to not count enrollment as early as they did last year, so they aren’t as surprised or underprepared if there is an influx like there was this past summer.

Hale said she would look into those issues, and encouraged parents and guardians to email her directly with any comments or concerns because the feedback helps her and her staff.


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Brushing up! Organizations work to battle youth tooth decay

EGION — With tooth decay rates among youth in Cochise County approaching 50%, dentists are advising parents to have their children’s teeth checked by their first birthday, or when the first teeth are visible.

That recommendation comes through Brianna Hillier, director of dental services for Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc. (CCHCI) and is echoed by dental professionals throughout the country.

“If I could get every parent in the door with their children at (age) one, then get those children started on a biannual dental program, it would be a huge step in preventing future oral health problems,” Hillier said.

Visiting the dentist at a young age is essential in establishing a healthy oral routine, noted Hillier. “This early exposure creates a sense of familiarity and trust for the patient as well as the parent, and can be the foundation for a lifetime of positive dental experiences.”

First Things First, a statewide organization that supports the development, health and early education of children from birth to 5 years old, also points to a gap in parental awareness when it comes to dental care in young children.

“Proper dental care is a huge problem for families in Southeastern Arizona and many parents have no idea they should regularly take their children to the dentist as early as their first birthday,” First Things First stated in a press release.

“Recent statistics show that 46 percent of young children in Cochise County have experienced tooth decay, and 31 percent of young children have untreated tooth decay. These numbers are alarming because if left untreated, tooth decay in children’s primary teeth can increase their risk of future problems.”

Along with damaged permanent teeth, lack of early dental care can lead to susceptibility of infections in other parts of the body, delayed or impaired speech development, and decreased self-esteem.

“Many parents aren’t aware that by age 5, about 60 percent of U.S. children have oral health issues,” says Melissa Avant, First Things First Regional Director for the Cochise Region. “This percentage can be drastically reduced by teaching children good oral hygiene habits at an early age.”

Daycare centers are incorporating dental hygiene practices in their programs, with kids as young as a one year learning how to brush.

“We use fun props for the kids — like Alex the Alligator as a model — and show the kids how to use a toothbrush” said Dena Andon, director of Shepherd’s Fold, a Sierra Vista-based childcare center that accepts children from infants to five years old. The youngsters are given tiny toothbrushes and child-friendly toothpaste, provided by a University of Arizona Cooperative Extension program.

“We brush teeth with the children at least three times a week, sometimes more often,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of parents who are truly surprised that kids should get started with dental care this young. We also use ‘Spiffy Wipes’ on gums of babies to keep them from getting caked with formula and baby food.”

Gently wiping a baby’s gums goes a long way in helping youngsters transition into brushing once teeth begin to appear, Anderson said.

A new Chiricahua Sierra Vista Family Dental Center, located at 115 Calle Portal, next door to the CCHCI pediatric center, has a special area for children, with a goal of making the dental experience a positive one, said Hillier, who holds community outreach presentations.

“One of our greatest challenges is reaching families in underserved, rural areas where there are no dental clinics. We now have a Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which is a full-service clinic on wheels.”

The clinic brings a dentist office to the communities of Bisbee, Benson, McNeal, Elfrida and Pearce. Mobile dental service schedules vary. For information, call 520-642-2222 or go to cchci.org.

“We embed dental hygienists into some of our health centers in order to provide dental services right alongside medical and behavioral health,” Hillier said. “Chiricahua also has a beautiful, state-of-the-art Care Mobile from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona. The Care Mobile essentially allows us to bring the dentist office out to some of the more underserved communities and schools through Cochise County and provides dental services to children of all ages.”