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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Denair to Evaluate In-Person Learning Options After Holiday Break is Completed

The state’s recent state-at-home order caused by surging COVID cases and dwindling intensive care space in regional hospitals will have no immediate effect on the Denair Unified’s ability to teach a limited number of students on campus, district trustees learned Thursday night.

“Schools are considered an essential sector, so we remain open,” Superintendent Terry Metzger told the board during a Zoom meeting.

Small groups of students began returning to Denair’s four campuses in early November in what are called “learning pods.” All told, only about a quarter of the district’s 1,300 students come to campus for one or more days of in-person instruction.

In most cases, those students are either in special education, are English learners, are enrolled in Denair Elementary Charter Academy’s dual language immersion program or are in danger of failing one or more classes at the Denair High School or Denair Middle School. At Denair Charter Academy, some independent study students have resumed in-person weekly appointments with their teachers.

The rest of Denair’s students still receive their lessons at home via distance learning as they have since the pandemic first closed campuses across California in March.

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Overwhelming Response to Instrument Donation Request Blows Away Denair Music Teacher

A public appeal by the Denair schools’ musical director for donated instruments struck just the right chord with many members of the community, who have generously responded with nearly two dozen new and gently used instruments.

One Turlock businessman, Mitch Logsdon, spent nearly $8,000 to buy eight brand new instruments. Logsdon owns United Equipment Co. in Turlock – the building off Lander Avenue just west of 99 freeway that looks like a tractor. Logsdon is a 1974 Turlock High graduate with no connection to Denair schools, but he was moved to help after reading about Fred Steiner’s request in the Turlock Journal on Nov. 20.

“For some reason, the article really got to me,” explained Logsdon, who said he played clarinet for two years in junior high school but otherwise is not musically inclined. “I think Denair is a nice little community and I got the feeling the music department doesn’t get a lot of attention, so I called Fred and talked to him about it.”

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Sterling Pratt – Denair High’s Oldest Alumni – Marks His 100th Birthday on Dec. 5

Denair High School’s oldest surviving alumnus, Sterling Pratt, celebrates his 100th birthday on Saturday, Dec. 5 and though he no longer lives in the area, many in the community want to congratulate him on his milestone.

Initially, there was to be a tribute paid to Mr. Pratt on Saturday during a 5K run put on by the Denair High FFA chapter. Unfortunately, that event has been postponed until early next year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, some members of the Denair family would like to call attention to Mr. Pratt’s big day.

Mr. Pratt was born on Dec. 5, 1920 to Charles and Myrtis Pratt. He grew up on his family’s dairy farm at the corner of Hamlow and Gratton roads. His brother, Calvin, was born in 1925.

When Mr. Pratt was a young boy, his father bought the grocery store in Denair. A few years later, he built a new store called Denair Cash Store at what is now the Village Market location. Mr. Pratt recalls stocking shelves and cleaning eggs at the store. He preferred working there to his chores at the dairy.

In 1936, Charles Pratt sold the market to Harold and Lola Chance Walton – a deal that would loom large later in Sterling Pratt’s life.

Mr. Pratt graduated from Denair High in 1938. He said his favorite subjects were math and science. He took a year off school to work at the lumberyard his father owned on the north side of Denair, then began attending Modesto Junior College in the fall of 1939. Still intrigued by science, Mr. Pratt took classes like organic chemistry and quantitative analysis.

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