DECA Moves to Online Registration for Kindergarten and TK

The application period opened today for parents who would like to enroll their children into kindergarten and transitional kindergarten for the next school year at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

For the first time, the process will be entirely online. Parents should go to www.denairschoolmint.net to fill out an application.

Here is the key information:

  • The initial application period will be open from Jan. 21 through Feb. 11
  • From Feb. 16 through Feb. 19, DECA officials will send offers to register for the 2021-2022

school year

  • Upon receiving an offer to register, parents must complete the registration process between Feb. 22 and March 31
  • During registration, families need to complete all online forms and upload all required documentation. Completed registration packets must include a copy of the child’s birth certificate, updated immunization records and proof of residency (such as a utility bill).
  • Parents registering children for the dual language immersion program also must attend a Zoom orientation meeting, then complete a form denoting their understanding of and commitment to the program. Meeting dates are listed in the registration packet. Office staff will provide families with a Zoom invitation link to attend the orientation meeting following the date selection.
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Denair Unified Pioneers Monthly Mental Health Series Featuring Respected Stanford Psychiatrist

The Denair Unified School District is partnering with a renowned Stanford psychiatrist to make it easier to discuss mental health issues potentially facing staff, students and their families. The arrangement is believed to be the first of its kind in Stanislaus County and among just a handful nationwide.

The partnership began Tuesday, when the first in a yearlong series of videos was posted on the district’s Facebook page. In the video, Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, and Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger introduce the program and talk about the first topic – childhood depression.

After each video is posted, Chaudhary will host live Zoom calls on the next two Tuesdays, giving parents and others an opportunity to discuss questions and concerns and get additional information. For instance, the Zoom follow-ups to the issue of childhood depression will be on Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 10 to 11 a.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 2 from noon to 1 p.m. Links will be posted on the district website.

Spanish translation of the videos and the Zoom calls will be available upon request.

The program is being funded through a grant from Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock, which has worked with the district on a variety of other health initiatives in the past few years.

The timing of the new program is directly related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Denair’s 1,300 students, their families and school employees, Metzger said. Most students have been taught exclusively via distance learning since Denair’s four campuses were closed in March. The situation has created stress at every level of the education system.

“Our work with Dr. Chaudhary … is a result of conversations with Legacy Health Endowment about preparing the school system for the return of students to campus,” Metzger explained, adding that Legacy CEO Jeffrey Lewis “has been very concerned about mental health issues for some time — and not just for children, but also for adults.”

Chaudhary comes to the project with impressive credentials. She is double board-certified from Harvard and is the founder of Stanford Brainstorm, which was started in 2016 as the world’s first academic lab dedicated to mental health innovation and entrepreneurship.

Metzger described Chaudhary’s role as instructional rather than clinical. The goal is to give parents tangible resources and information that will help them with any issues their children may be experiencing.

In the first video, for instance, Chaudhary said that “depression may look a little different for everybody.”

“A lot of kids I’m seeing today are struggling with signs and symptoms of depression,” she said. “Parents aren’t sure what’s going on or whether they should be worried. Now, if kids are expressing anything that’s concerning from the safety perspective, like having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, that’s a more clear signal that you need to seek professional help. But what about when it’s less obvious?”

Chaudhary then described some of the symptoms that children may experience — crying and being emotional, lack of motivation (to get dressed, to complete schoolwork, not wanting to have fun, holed up in their room), being angry or lashing out at family and friends, difficulty with sleep, poor appetite and low energy.

She advised parents to “trust your gut,” that “you’re going to know” if something is wrong with their child. She also assures them that depression is “perfectly treatable” and that recognition is the first step in that process.

The hourlong Zoom calls on the two Tuesdays after a video is posted will give parents an opportunity to talk directly with Chaudhary and ask questions.

Metzger said there are other free resources for families who need help. She advised them to call the guidance counselor at their child’s campus, who will then direct parents to “in-house or community-based mental health clinicians.” Chaudhary will be working with the school counselors.

“School counselors are not therapists so while they have some training in behavioral health, it’s not their main focus,” Metzger said. “Dr. Chaudhary will be doing some teaching of what to look for and how to support mental health needs to better equip our counselors to refer families to the right resources.”

A second part of the mental health initiative involves the district surveying teachers about mental health topics they’d like to discuss with an expert. Once that information has been collected, Metzger said, Chaudhary will conduct a combination of teaching and drop-in sessions “to help teachers build their own understanding and hopefully apply their learning to their work with students as well as in their own lives and families.”

Lewis, the Legacy Health CEO, said the goal of the mental health series is “to ensure that when students return to school in person, everyone is ready and prepared to help them.”

He said Denair was a natural place to start because of its “outstanding leadership.” He also would like to extend the program to other districts, saying, “Results will dictate where we go from here.”

Legacy already has piloted mental health programs locally aimed at school superintendents and other administrators.

“Now, our focus turns to school counselors who have to address the myriad of problems students have and will return to school with,” said Lewis. “We believe that we have to ensure that public school professionals are healthy both mentally and physically – if they are not, the transition back to school for students could be even more challenging.”

Legacy has funded free mental health services in Denair Unified to students and their families since the fall of 2018 in partnership with Sierra Vista Child & Family Services of Modesto. A full-time mental health clinician is stationed at Denair Middle School to work with students and their families from all DUSD campuses.

DCA Student Earns $3,000 Scholarship

Caleb Wilson dreams of being an Air Force pilot, even though he’s only flown in a plane once in his life and that was so long ago he barely remembers it. He realizes that pursuing a college education will be part of making that ambition come true. With that in mind, the 17-year-old senior at Denair Charter Academy already is enrolled in a pre-calculus and trigonometry class at Modesto Junior College.

His goal after graduation from DCA this spring is to earn his diploma from MJC in two more years and then either get an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Boulder, Colo., or continue college at Purdie University in Indiana as part of an ROTC program that will lead to eventual Air Force enlistment. He wants to pursue a double major in mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering.

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Two Denair Schools to Stay on 100% Distance Learning for At Least One More Week Because of COVID Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom over the delivery of education all across the country. It is no different in the Denair Unified School District, where half the campuses will remain on 100% distance learning for at least another week because of health concerns.

Superintendent Terry Metzger delivered an update on the district’s situation Thursday night to trustees and the public. In her report, she pointed to dismal statistics from Stanislaus County and the San Joaquin Valley that continue to show rising coronavirus cases and a scary lack of hospital space.

““We seem stuck,” Metzger said. “Conditions in our county and our region don’t seem to be getting better.”

Beginning Monday of this week, Denair reverted to 100% distance learning because of concerns over potential COVID exposures among a handful of staff members. When classes resume Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a handful of students will return to Denair High School and Denair Charter Academy, but Denair Elementary Charter Academy and Denair Middle School will stay with distance learning only.

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Former Denair School Board Member John Plett Recalled as ‘Gentle Giant’ with Heart of Gold

Former Denair Unified School Board Trustee John Plett is being remembered as a big man with an even bigger heart who had a deep love for his family and strong affection for the Denair community, especially its schools. Mr. Plett died Sunday. He was 70.

Mr. Plett was elected to the school board in 2011 after a career in law enforcement. He was re-elected in 2015 and served until August 2019, when health concerns forced him to resign.

Mr. Plett was a tall, strong man with an affable nature and a quick smile. He and his wife, Kathy, lived in Denair for nearly 40 years. He was known for the pride he felt for the greater community as well as the students and staff on Denair’s four campuses.

Superintendent Terry Metzger said Mr. Plett’s loyalty and dedication to the community were evident right from the start.

“When I met him, I immediately recognized him as a champion for the district,” she said. “John attended events at every school throughout each year. It gave him great joy. Our conversations were always about how to make the district better for kids and the community. He had incredible respect for teachers and staff.”

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