Denair Students Make Plans to Mark Red Ribbon Week and its Anti-Drug Message … Even in a Virtual World

Denair students may be away from campus in a distance-learning environment, but they still will commemorate Red Ribbon Week next week, just like they have for years. Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 as a way to discourage drug use among children while promoting healthy behaviors.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan was one of the original proponents of Red Ribbon Week. It is a tribute to former Drug Enforcement Agency agent Enrique Camarena, who was killed during an undercover assignment in Mexico.

Though the COVID pandemic has forced students and staff into a virtual world since mid-March, each campus in the Denair Unified School District has planned a number of events starting Monday. All are being coordinated by staff as well as student members of the PHAST (Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco) Clubs. This year’s theme is “Be Happy. Be Brave. Be Drug Free.”

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Denair Parents Have Until Thursday to Choose Distance Learning or Hybrid Model for Their Children

Thursday is the deadline for parents of students in the Denair Unified School District to let officials know whether they want their children to transition to a hybrid learning model or remain with 100% distance learning.

Denair students at all grade levels have been taught using distance learning since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because health conditions in Stanislaus County have improved recently, Denair is now able to plan to bring some students back to its campuses for limited face-to-face instruction. No date has been set, but it is likely to be in November.

Parents received electronic and mailed letters last week from Superintendent Terry Metzger asking them to choose from two models.

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State, County Officials Warn Denair About Deficit Spending; District Forms Committee to Identify Cost Savings

Projections of future deficit spending by the Denair Unified School District caught the eye of state and county officials, who worry such a scenario is the slippery slope that could return Denair to the precarious financial situation it was in eight years ago.

School districts pass budgets in June that govern fiscal years that begin July 1. Each budget anticipates spending not only for that year, but for two years into the future. In Denair’s case, the balanced budget school trustees approved June 4 also projects the district will spend $151,593 more that it receives in state and other funding in 2021-22. The district’s plan would be to dip into its reserves that year to make up the difference.

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Denair Moves Cautiously Toward Reopening Schools

Caution, uncertainty and strong desire to return students to the classroom without compromising their health or that of their teachers were among the emotions that permeated a lengthy discussion by Denair Unified School District trustees Thursday night about what it will take to reopen campuses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bottom line: It may be December or January before school officials, employees and parents feel confident that a limited amount of on-campus instruction each week can replace the distance-learning format Denair and hundreds of other California districts have used since March.

“These are not easy decisions,” said Trustee Carmen Wilson. “It’s the logistics of them. If we say yes, it takes a lot of resources to execute and can we do that?”

Before trustees weighed in with their opinions, Superintendent Terry Metzger presented an outline of the health situation in Stanislaus County, which strongly influences what schools can and can’t do. Today, the county remains in Purple tier denoting “widespread” COVID cases. It is expected to move into the Red (“substantial”) tier as soon as next week.

Elementary campuses only may apply for a waiver and open under the Purple tier. Denair has not yet sought a waiver for Denair Elementary Charter Academy, but that may be moot. Once any county has been in the Red tier for 14 consecutive days, all campuses theoretically could open under a hybrid model that blends two days of on-campus instruction with three days of distance learning. Rules would limit how many students can be in class together and numerous safety precautions would be required.

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Denair Food Service Workers Mark Autism Awareness Day, Announce Plans to Add Weekend Meals Program

Two neat things happened Wednesday in the Denair Unified School District Food Services Department.

The first occurred during the normal drive-through meal pickup from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Denair Middle School parking lot. Seven employees of the department all sported T-shirts commemorating Autism Awareness Day – 5½ months “late,” but no less enthusiastically.

April 2 was the official date of Autism Awareness Day, a time to celebrate the millions of children and their families who battle the learning disorder that includes autism and Asperger syndrome. One of the food service workers has a nephew with autism. The department ordered the T-shirts last spring, but the shipment was delayed by the COVID pandemic. The shirts finally arrived just last week. Wednesday, food service workers proudly wore them as they handed out hundreds of grab-and-go meals to parents to take home to students.

The other news Wednesday was the expansion of the food distribution program, which has been in place since the spring, when Denair and other public school districts in California were forced to close their campuses because of the health crisis.

Breakfasts and lunches are distributed Monday through Thursday in the middle school parking lot.

Beginning Oct. 1, three weekend meals and a snack will be added to the food bags that are handed out  on Thursdays. Every bag is filled with tasty and nutritious food for all children under the age of 18.

It is another way that Denair Unified and its Food Service Department remains committed to providing nutritional support for the community.