Denair School Leaders Discuss Waiver Process, Other Scenarios Under Which Students Return to Campus

Even as students, staff and administrators deservedly were praised by Denair Unified School District trustees Thursday night for the ways they have adapted to distance learning and delivered lessons online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the question on everyone’s mind was, “When will education be normal again and students return to class?”

The simple answer is no one knows. As school board President Crystal Sousa acknowledged after a long discussion about various options: “I know parents want kids back in school. I know everyone wants kids back in school. But it’s a logistical nightmare.”

Six months after face-to-face classes were suspended by the pandemic, Superintendent Terry Metzger said the district still has no clarity about when students can return to campus. That’s because Stanislaus County remains at the highest level (purple) on the state’s COVID color-coded watch list, and the health and safety of students and staff remains the No. 1 priority.

Through Thursday, according to the county’s public health website, there have been 15,749 COVID cases in the county and, sadly, 303 deaths. In the unincorporated part of the county that includes Denair, there have been 696 coronavirus cases.

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DECA’s Amezcua Blends Technology with Personal Touch to Meet Challenges of Kindergarten Immersion Students

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted how education is delivered. Beginning in March, all Stanislaus County school districts – including Denair Unified — were forced to suspend on-campus classes and move to a distance learning model. Today, in the first of a series of profiles, we talk with a Denair teacher about distance learning, some of the challenges involved and the lessons that can be learned.

Teacher: Vanessa Amezcua (Señorita Amezcua)

School: Denair Elementary Charter Academy

Grade/subject: Kindergarten Spanish Dual Immersion

Years in district: 3

What does a typical school day look like for you now? How do you organize your time? 

A typical school day begins with me double-checking that I did not miss any parent messages from the night before or if I have any new ones to respond to. I use my time prior to our 8:45 a.m. Zoom call to pre-record myself doing lessons for the students. From 8:45-9:30, I am on Zoom with my 21 students. The rest of my day is spent creating schedules, video lessons, prepping materials and answering any questions from parents.

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Denair Schools Ready to Welcome Back Students Under Comprehensive Distance-Learning Format

Denair students, teachers and other staff are making final preparations to resume classes Wednesday under a distance-learning format because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and health concerns in Stanislaus County.

The Denair Unified School District serves more than 1,300 kindergarten through 12th-grade students on its four campuses. Administrators and staff have spent much of the time since school let out in May creating what Superintendent Terry Metzger calls a “reasonable and sustainable” education model, one that will provide all students with “the academic and social-emotional support they need to be successful in this new way of learning.”

“We fully recognize how difficult this is for many of our families and we want to assure you that we are here to partner with you,” Metzger wrote in an open letter to parents last week.

With time to plan, Denair’s distance-learning format will be more structured and rigorous than what was rolled out when COVID-19 forced Denair and all other public school districts in California to cancel in-person classes in March. Since then, there have been many training opportunities for teachers and detailed discussions about how best to engage and educate students across all grade levels. Collaboration between teachers and sharing best practices for distance learning has been stressed.

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Denair Unified Continues Free Breakfast, Lunch Distribution

Though students in the Denair Unified School District will begin the 2020-21 school year under a distance-learning format because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the free food program still will be available to all of them.

Free breakfasts, lunches and even a late-afternoon snack will be distributed Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. via a drive-through line in the Denair Middle School parking lot. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, meals for that day will be available. On Thursdays, enough food to last through Friday will be distributed.

Parents, relatives and caregivers of any Denair student at all grade levels may pick up food. Children do not need to be present.

The meals are paid for by government programs and prepared by the Denair food services staff. They include plenty of fruits, vegetables, milk, juice and healthy snacks in addition to students’ favorites like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets and pizza. For more information, call (209) 632-9920, ext. 1243.

3 Denair Basketball Players Will Play in College

Three members of Denair High School’s Southern League champion basketball team will continue to play in college.

The Coyotes finished the season 26-4, including a perfect 12-0 mark in league that earned them their first SL title since 2004. Denair made the playoffs for a third straight year, eventually falling in the first round of the NorCal Division V playoffs.

A large part of that success was due to the combined efforts of seniors Hayden Feldman, Austin Upfold and Jacob Kuharski. They were among the standouts of a talented team that didn’t lean on one player game to game, but used its depth and size to wear down most opponents.

Feldman will go to Merced College, where his versatility to play guard or forward no doubt will be an asset. He averaged 11 points, five rebounds and three assists last season – numbers strong enough to earn him Southern League MVP honors. A transfer two years ago from Turlock High, Feldman finished his varsity career with a 45-15 overall record and a 21-3 mark in league play.

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