Denair Grad Lewellen Chosen for All-Star Volleyball Team

Jacob Lewellen’s passion for volleyball is undeniable. The recent Denair High graduate was the driving force behind the formation of a boys volleyball team this year at the school. And even though the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the inaugural season after just two games, Lewellen’s dedication to the sport earned him some well-deserved recognition when he recently was chosen for a regional all-star team.

Lewellen was one of 12 players selected for the South Small-School team in the Sacramento Optimist all-star games, which were scheduled for May 31 but cancelled because of coronavirus health concerns.

“It was kind of unexpected,” said Lewellen of his all-star status. “I didn’t know it was a thing.”

Lewellen was exposed to high-level volleyball from an early age. His father, David, was a pro beach volleyball player when the family lived in Florida. When they moved to California, David served as the coach of the girls team at Denair High. Jacob was in middle school then and participated in almost every practice.

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Denair Unified Honors 5 Retirees For Their Many Years of Service

Three teachers, a longtime campus supervisor and an elementary school paraeducator have announced their retirements from the Denair Unified School District at the end of this school year.

Those retiring are:

  • Denair Middle School teacher Curtis Wooten
  • Denair Elementary Charter School teacher Kathy Perry
  • DMS campus supervisor Don Smith
  • Denair High School teacher Joe Esquivel
  • DECA paraeducator Laurel Dodd
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Top Denair High Students Carlos, Wenstrand Reflect on Quality of Education, Academic Success

Jacob Carlos is the Denair High School Class of 2020 valedictorian thanks to his 4.25 grade-point average. The salutatorian will be Brigg Wenstrand, who compiled a 4.22 GPA in his four years.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the graduation ceremony on Friday, May 22 will be a drive-through event beginning at 7 p.m. at Jack Lytton Stadium. Each graduate will ride in a vehicle with up to nine family members; everyone must stay in the car at all times. Diplomas will be handed to students through the car window.

The ceremony will be streamed live on the Denair High School Facebook page,  on DESPN’s Instagram live page and on the NFHS network free of charge for families to watch, starting at 7 p.m. The nearby Church of the Nazarene also will put it on its YouTube channel.

Carlos and Wenstrand recently took time to answer some questions about their high school experiences.

Question: Obviously, the Class of 2020 will have a much different graduation experience than any in many generations. How do you think that will shape you and your classmates? 

Carlos: Obviously, this experience isn’t what we expected. I think it will help my classmates and I to appreciate the things in life that we have. This whole experience is an example of the phrase “anything can happen.”

Wenstrand: I think the situation that we are facing will make us all stronger for the future. Yes, right now it hurts that we can’t be together these last few weeks at things like the senior trip and even graduation parties, but five years down the road, it won’t matter as much. The lessons we are learning and the acts of kindness we are seeing around the world will be far more beneficial.

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Uncertainty Remains for Denair Staff, Students Because of COVID-19 Pandemic

Educators – from superintendents to principals to teachers – are in uncharted waters when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as there was no road map this spring when schools across the country shut down and transitioned to distance learning, there is very little clarity about what the next school year may look like.

So even as the Denair Unified School District prepares to celebrate graduates, retirees and students being promoted to the next grade in the upcoming week, the landscape for when classes resume in August remains uncertain.

“It’s way too early. If we put a solid plan in place today, it would change tomorrow,” Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger told trustees and others during the district’s second Zoom board meeting Thursday night.

“We’re definitely getting mixed signals from state and county,” Metzger said. “We don’t know what schools’ role will be. Schools need to be open so parents can go back to work. The safety of staff and students is paramount and, if we open the economy too soon, there’s definitely a danger we could be right back here.”

“Here” is a world where no face-to-face instruction has taken place since March 18; where teachers, students and other non-essential workers have been sheltering in place; where lessons have been delivered via computer and video meetings; and where milestone events – like Denair High’s drive-through graduation ceremony May 22 – will be nothing like anyone has ever experienced before.

The logistics of Thursday’s meeting certainly reflected the new reality. Metzger and the five trustees — Crystal Sousa, Kathi Dunham-Filson, Ray Prock Jr., Carmen Wilson and Regina Gomes, plus student trustee Logan Pierce – sat 6 feet apart around a U-shaped table arrangement. The principals, staff and community members who normally would attend in person instead connected via Zoom.

“Flexibility” and “adaptability” were the words frequently used to describe what the last two months have been like for everyone.

“It’s called a school closure, but it’s really just the buildings that are closed,” Dunham-Filson said. “I’m grateful for all the hard work everybody has done.”

Metzger said the district will work with the Stanislaus County Office of Education to create training for teachers about how to deliver lessons via distance learning.

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DMS Math Teacher Uses Videos, Zoom Meetings to Deliver Lessons During Distance Learning

The coronavirus pandemic dramatically altered the education landscape this spring. Beginning March 19, 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 last of a three-part series, we talk with a Denair teacher about distance learning, some of the challenges and the lessons that can be learned.

Teacher: Roxanna Lagos
School: Denair Middle School
Grade/subject: Seventh- and eighth-grade math

What does a typical school day for you look like now? How do you organize your time?
A typical school day for me starts at 8 a.m. The first thing I do is post my daily example videos for seventh- and eighth-grade on my teacher Instagram (@mslagosdms). I then get my own three children up and ready for the day. At 10 a.m., I host my hourlong morning Zoom meeting. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., I am available to students and parents by email, text, phone, Instagram and personal Zoom meeting. During these hours, I also help my own children with their distance learning, do general household chores and take my own classes for my master’s degree. At 5 p.m., I host my evening Zoom meeting. At 6 p.m., I make dinner for my family, do any additional household chores, work on my own homework and try to carve out non-academic time with my children. I try to be in bed by 11:30 each night. My main way of organizing my time is to have a rough outline of what I want my day to look like, but to remain extremely flexible.

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