It’s 8:25 a.m. on Aug. 12, and Joy Gomez is jiggling her key in the door lock of classroom E-6.
"It seems to be kind of stuck," said the first-year teacher at Kimball High School. "It’s just one of those things on the first day of school you have to work through."
She gathers her clipboard and a stack of papers she will hand out to her first-period students — a full class of 36 juniors and seniors.
Standing at her door, Gomez welcomes every student in her biology and human physiology classes with a smile and friendly greeting.
"I always try and be there for the students every day, but definitely on the first day," she said. "It’s a nice way to start the class and the year, you know, by being that friendly face each day."
Her only expectation for the first day of classes is to get everyone’s name right.
"I always worry about whether I’m pronouncing them correctly," she said. "I’m good with names, but it takes a few times to get it right. I want to know them by the end of the first week."
For the second-year teacher, that is a feat in itself. Gomez has more than 175 students this semester in five classes. In each class, all 36 desks are occupied — a growing trend of increased enrollment at the high school.
Kimball High had 2,202 students enrolled on the first day of classes — the highest among Tracy Unified School District’s three high schools, according to TUSD numbers. Tracy High had 2,062 students, while West High welcomed 1,932 students.
Last year, 2,058 students started the first day of school at Kimball.
"We are bulging at the seams this year," said Principal Cheryl Domenichelli, as she visited classrooms on the first day. "We’re going to see what that means for our school, but our teachers are really handling things well today, I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen."
Kimball High is an exception in the district when it comes to enrollment.
Overall, the district has 16,126 students this year — a slight decrease from the start of the 2012 school year, when 16,172 students were enrolled, according to TUSD numbers.
Jessica Cardoza, communication specialist for TUSD, said the district is slated to lose about $268,800 in state funds from its fiscal year 2013-14 budget, because actual enrollment is down 46 students from the projected enrollment numbers it used to set the budget in June.
Cardoza said district officials will make staffing adjustments, analyze purchases and consider leaving vacancies open during the school year to compensate for the projected funding loss.
"It won’t mean dramatic cuts for us this year, but there will definitely be cutbacks by the end of the year," she said.
TUSD has experienced declining enrollment in the district since the economic downturn around 2006.
"It hasn’t been as dramatic as other school districts around us," she said. "But for us, a school district used to growing for the last 30 years, we are definitely starting to feel it during the last few years."
For Gomez, larger class sizes lead to greater challenges as a teacher.
During her classes, she preached teamwork and cooperation among students, because many of her classroom activities are based on group work.
"I want the kids to feel comfortable when they work with each other, and that’s important because when they feel comfortable, there’s a better chance they work better with each other," she said. "With a lot of students, you want to keep them focused, because if you don’t, that’s when kids can start acting out and they don’t stay on task."
Gomez will also spend more time planning lessons and grading papers.
"You have to manage your time a lot better," she said. "It’s hard to judge how things will go after the first day. It takes time to get a feel for how the class dynamic is, and really, every single class is different. I feel good about everything, but we’ll see how it goes moving forward."
• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.