Denair heard about a day in the life at Denair High School

The 287 students at Denair High School are one busy group of teenagers. In addition to a full range of academically challenging classes, there are sports teams, clubs, music and speech, leadership and other extracurricular activities to fill up their days. Wherever their passions may lie, there is probably an organization and opportunity to nurture it.

The breadth of the offerings at the high school was on full display during a presentation Thursday night by Interim Principal Breanne Aguiar, one of her instructors and three of their students at the monthly meeting of the Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees.

The group began by showing a student-produced video entitled “A Day in the Life of a Coyote,” which portrayed a typical day on the campus. Set to music, it journeyed from the main office through various classroom settings, student assemblies and other popular events, and included testimonials from students about what they like best about the school.

None of the fun stuff, however, is meant to detract from Denair High’s primary mission, which as Aguiar reminded trustees is to prepare students “to achieve college, career and vocational success.”

That only happens with a quality staff and an education structure that teaches not only critical thinking skills and important academic concepts, but also exposes students to a range of possibilities beyond high school. Key in that effort, Aguiar explained, are the six Career Technical Education pathways (ag mechanics, ag science, animal science, criminal science investigation, floral design and patient care) that allow students to take classes that could prepare them for good-paying jobs in the future. In addition, Denair students have access to Career Inspiration Center in Empire run by the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

Aguiar also touched on other key academic components on campus, including targeted support for students who need additional help in math or English, credit recovery programs to help students catch up and a special education program that features Project Life (where special ed students learn key skills through work at six local employers). In addition, there are social and emotional support systems that can address students’ mental health needs.

Students Paige Wilson, Wilder Diaz and Rylee Gonsalves told trustees about the importance of the many extracurricular activities on campus, which includes nearly 20 clubs as well as sports for boys and girls.

Teacher Darrin Allen described the impact of the Committed Coyote program he advises. It includes 30 students from all grades who agree to model positive behaviors and leadership. 

Aguiar also talked about continuing to build a culture of inclusion, diversity and respect at Denair High. Importantly, that includes expanding opportunities for high school students to mentor their younger peers next door at Denair Middle School.

The high school presentation was the first in a series of deeper dives into campus life that will come before trustees. In future months, board members will hear from leaders and students at the middle school, Denair Elementary Charter Academy and Denair Charter Academy.

In other action Thursday night, trustees:

  • Voted 5-0 to approve the School Plans for Student Achievement at the high school and middle school. They lay out specific goals and objectives and ways to achieve them at each campus.
  • Heard a short report from Superintendent Terry Metzger on the VIA heart health screenings held Nov. 6 at the middle school. The Bay Area group saw 128 people ages 12 to 25 and identified eight cases that required follow-up, including one that may have been life-threatening, Metzger said. The screenings took about 40 minutes. They were paid for by the EMC Health Foundation of Turlock.

Denair football team finishes on a winning note

It wasn’t the season Anthony Armas and his Denair High football players were hoping for when practice began many months ago in the heat of the summer, but it ended on a high note Friday night when the Coyotes played their best game of the year to knock off Waterford 52-39.

The victory allowed the team – and especially its eight seniors – to enjoy a hard-earned road victory over a regional rival while snapping a seven-game losing streak. The Coyotes finished the year 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the Southern League.

After all the hard work and sweat and bruises that are part playing football, winning the final game will be an enjoyable memory to savor.

“I joked with one of the kids after the game that I didn’t think we had scored 50 points in all our Southern League games combined,” said Armas. “I looked it up and it was exactly 52. It was a great way to end the season.”

What was the difference Friday?

“We didn’t make mistakes,” said Armas. “We only had one turnover. We executed our offense. The defense made some big plays and created some timely turnovers.

“I don’t think we ever felt during the game we were going to lose.  I’m not sure our kids felt that most of the year. We were feeling pretty good after the game. I think we needed that.”

As usual, Denair endured low numbers this fall. The Coyotes suited up just 16 players Friday night and that dropped by one with senior captain and team leader Anthony Pineda, who plays outside linebacker OLB and RB, suffered a broken collarbone.

“He’s just one of those kids who works his tail off,” praised Armas. “He’s been a big part of our program for four years.”

It was Pineda and the seven other seniors on the team that Armas was thinking of when he addressed the team after the game Friday night.

“I thanked our seniors for everything they did for us. They laid a foundation,” he said. “The seniors, we didn’t have a lot of them, but they went through a lot with the pandemic. This was the first normal year they had. The record’s not what they wanted or we wanted, but given what they went through, we did well.”

Even as players checked in their equipment on Monday, Armas already was optimistically looking ahead to next year.

“Our JV team was 5-5 and we had five sophomores already on the varsity,” he said. “Our numbers might be a little low, but I think we’ll be pretty good pretty soon. I think our program is on the upswing.”


Sunday, Nov. 6 — Denair Middle School

While few parents think of heart issues as something that could affect children, an estimated 1 in 300 school-aged children suffer from an undiagnosed heart defect, many of which could lead to cardiac arrest and death.  The risk of complications can be higher for students who are active in sports, gymnastics, dance or other strenuous activities, and the first warning sign is often death. 

To help find these hidden abnormalities, the Via Heart Project will conduct a free heart screening open to children 12 and older as well as adults up to age 25.  It will take place Sunday, Nov. 6 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Denair Middle School.

The event is sponsored by EMC Health Foundation, the Denair Unified School District and Gable Heart Beats.

The screening is conducted by volunteer Bay Area health professionals, including cardiologists, sonographers and nurses. It includes a health history review, EKG test and a focused echocardiogram. The entire process takes about 60-90 minutes and is non-invasive — there are no needles or X-ray exposure. Each teen’s confidentiality, privacy and individual modesty is respected throughout. Participants also will have the option to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) skills during the screening.

This screening is important because some 7,000 to 10,000 school-aged children nationwide die each year from sudden cardiac arrest, often from conditions that could have been detected in advance. Yet neither EKG nor cardiac ultrasound is included in the typical annual physical.  Via Heart Project’s screening is supplementary to — but does not replace — a child’s annual exam or school sports physical. 

“Any parent who has lost a child to a preventable health issue knows the pain of wondering what could have been done before it was too late. If we can prevent even one family from going through that pain, then what we have done is worth it,” said Liz Lazar-Johnson, Executive Director of Via Heart Project.

To participate, go to to register. Registration is open until noon on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, and is limited to 500 people.


Liz Lazar-Johnson, Executive Director

Via Heart Project

(650) 861-2376


Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022

9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


Denair Middle School
3701 Lester Road, Denair, CA 95316

Denair students benefitting from extra class time
before and after school

Some Denair students attend school as many as nine hours a day this year thanks to what is known as the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP), a new initiative from the state that provides additional instruction, tutoring and academic enrichment.

The program is voluntary, but comes on the heels of two pandemic-affected school years with distance learning and other disruptions to class that caused some students to fall behind. ELOP is one part of a many-faceted solution to help catch students up.

At Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Denair Unified School District board, Superintendent Terry Metzger and principals at three campuses described how the program is working so far.

ELOP begins at 7:30 a.m. – an hour before regular classes begin – and then resumes after school until 4:30 p.m. Some students participate in both sessions, while others are enrolled only in the morning or afternoon. Teachers who volunteer for the extra assignments are paid a stipend for their time.

The program is not a substitute for child care, which the district also offers until 6 p.m., Metzger emphasized. ELOP has a strong academic component, allowing students in various grades to complete homework or work on assignments while getting more personalized attention.

Though the state mandated ELOP only from kindergarten through sixth grade, Denair expanded it to its middle school and high school campuses as well.

“We see this program as another way to reach out to our students and families,” Metzger said.

At Denair Elementary Charter Academy, there are nearly 100 students participating in ELOP, with another 15 on the waiting list. Principal Marilu Cano expects to accommodate more students as soon as she can add additional teachers.

ELOP is different from the rest of the school day only in the sense that it tries “to incorporate having fun with learning,” said Cano.

“We want students to want to stay here,” she said.

Across the street at Denair Middle School, there have been 15 to 20 students participating in ELOP – a number that Principal Gabriela Sarmiento expects to increase now that grades have come out and some parents recognize their children need extra academic attention.

“The biggest thing we do is help with homework and mentoring,” she said.

Middle school students have access to an open gym in the morning in addition to instructional support in the afternoon. Sarmiento and her staff have discussed adding ELOP elements at lunchtime for students who can’t participate in the afternoon because they are involved in other extra-curricular activities already.

At the high school, Interim Principal Breanne Aguiar said 44 students are benefitting from ELOP. Like Sarmiento, she also expects that number to increase now that first-quarter grades have been posted.

“Parents who weren’t aware of the program have asked, ‘Where do I sign up,’ and I say, ‘I’ll do it for you,’ ” said Aguiar.

The high school program includes a partnership called College Corps in which CSU Stanislaus students come to Denair to tutor students in specific subjects in the afternoon. 

The state provided about $800,000 to fund the program this year, Metzger said. That is based only on the number of children from TK to sixth grade who participate. The state does not require ELOP at the older grade levels, but Denair decided it was important to offer it anyway. 

“We’re focusing on academic support and building relationships, and even our older kids need that,” Metzger explained.

In other action Thursday night, trustees:

  • Heard a report on the district’s special education program, which includes 143 students at all grade levels. That number could go up as Denair continues to “take back” students who have been receiving services through the Stanislaus County Office of Education, said Special Education Director Amanda Silva.
  • Listened to an update on students for whom English is not their first language from Anajanzy Montoya, English Language Development Coordinator. Of the district’s 1,309 students, 249 are in various stages of learning English, Montoya said. Denair’s services include special programs for those students as well as their parents. Students are tested twice a year on their ability to read, write, speak and listen in English, Montoya said, and can move out of the program once they are deemed to be fluent.
  • Approved the formation of an eSports and Gaming Club at Denair High School. Speakers said there are about 15 students interested in participating in the online game club.