January Message from the Principal
Tue, Jan 16 10:31am
Walnut Acres Elementary

Happy New Year, Walnut Acres Families!

May 2018 bring peace and joy to your families and many exciting and memorable learning moments to your children! It was a true pleasure to welcome the students back to school after our break. As a group, they seemed a bit tired last Monday, but their energy soon returned and we are back on track for the long learning stretch ahead.

While our current and proposed instruction/curriculum practices are crucial to our educational commitments, the emotional and physical safety of all our students is foundational to anything else we attempt at school. So it is pertinent that the first message of each new year focuses on safety: the physical safety of our children while they are at our facility, as well as the emotional safety of each child attending Walnut Acres.

Safety Plan

This is the time of year when we are asked to review and update our Safety and Emergency Plan. California law (AR0450) requires us to develop goals in the areas of “Social Climate” and “Physical Setting.” Our Safety Committee met with our School Site Council (SSC) last week and reviewed the goals set last year. We also discussed new goals for 2018.

For 2017, we had 3 goals related to “Social Climate, People, and Programs” and 3 goals related to “Physical Environment.” To summarize our “Social Climate” work, we wanted students to feel safe, comfortable and empowered at school, while making adults feel welcome and informed. Our goals related to our “Physical Setting” included Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training, safety procedure practices, and Emergency Plan details. We concluded that we had accomplished most of the activities related to our 6 goals, and that we need to continue proactive efforts to achieve the vision established by the goals.

While our 3 “Social Climate, People and Programs” goals remain intact, our 2018 draft activities focus on improved understanding and acceptance of student differences, particularly in relation to our autism population; emphasis on our digital citizenship program; and enhanced understanding of different cultures and perspectives from around the world.

Though our “Physical Setting” goals of AED training and Emergency Plan updating were met, our draft plan continues the goals with new activities focused on AED training for parents, and specific emergency detail training for teachers. We also created a goal to consider an attractive fence around the grassy area at the front of the school so that the relaxed outdoor setting could become part of the learning environment for second grade students in particular. Input from community members about this fence will be collected and assessed this year.   

I will continue to share our proposed Safety Plan with various community groups and collect input from stakeholders through January. On 2/1/18, at 3:00 p.m. in B-7, the School Site Council will meet and vote on the draft 2018 Safety Plan. Once it is site approved, it will be sent to the district office for final approval by the Board. Please note that SSC is an open meeting and all are welcome. 

Parent Safety Practices

Children’s lives are in your hands as you drive and walk on our campus! For just the few minutes you are here, make their safety paramount over the meeting you must rush to or the many chores you must complete. Life is busy, we are all overburdened, but imagine how you would feel if your distraction caused an injury to a child!

  1. Drop your children off at 7:45 a.m., when we have adult supervision for children.
  2. Drop children off where they will have a safe route into school. Do not drop children off at a spot where they must illegally cross the street or run past moving cars in the parking lot or drop-off zone.
  3. Walk in the crosswalks during traffic times. Children are watching. If you follow the rules, they will know the rules matter!
  4. Follow all drop-off and pick-up rules as detailed in the Walnut Acres Handbook you received and acknowledged reading with your signature at the beginning of the year.
  5. Remember that we do not have supervision on the playground after school. All children are expected to head home directly after school unless they are participating an adult-led enrichment class. If you want your child to play on the playground, you need to provide supervision.
  6. Sign in at the office when you visit during school hours and wear the volunteer name tag you will receive there so children and adults know that you are a safe person on campus.

To reduce drive-thru traffic, save gas money, and take positive action for our environment while adding fun and exercise to your student’s routine, consider a New Year’s resolution of walking or biking to school.

Whether walking, biking, or driving, let’s keep our students safe!

Positive Climate Work

We are continuing our efforts to maximize a strengths-based approach to serving our students. You may have noticed our 4 Basic Rules posted in every room of our facility, so that we are abundantly clear about expectations. You may have heard about the PAWS collections for Thursday after-school PAWSicles or seen our ROAR board for students noted by their teachers to practice life skills.

These rewards are extrinsic motivators for making good choices, but much of our effort involves intrinsic motivators to help our children internalize basic social-emotional learning competencies. The competencies include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. We support skill development through our daily teaching, through our Sing-outs, and through our problem-solving guidance. Class meetings/class circles are part of that ongoing work as are the push-in visits of our counselor to support class needs.  

Beyond these routine activities, selected 3rd-5th grade students have received peacemaker training so they can support peer problem-solving, while our noon supervision staff and teachers will receive an updated training from Soul Shoppe next month to support students competency enhancement. Meanwhile, Soul Shoppe will also provide an assembly for each grade next month entitled “I’ve Got Your Back: From Bystanders to Upstanders.” It will focus on appropriate assertiveness skills in social situations and is designed to enhance social awareness while encouraging responsible decision-making.

Event Updates

The 2018-19 school calendar is available on the district website.

On 1/24/18 at 7:00 p.m., St. Matthew will offer a free showing of Angst, a documentary to raise awareness about anxiety in children and adolescents.

On 2/6/18 at 6:00 p.m., we will welcome 2018-19 kindergarten parents to our Kindergarten Orientation in the MUR. Please let neighbors know about this important meeting, especially if they do not yet have children in school.

On 1/30/18 at 6:00 p.m., the district will host a “Marijuana and Beyond” parent workshop at College Park High School.

Collaborating to Enhance Safety

As we hit 2018 running, our dedicated staff will work collaboratively to refine our safe environment, enhance our strength-based approach, and guide our students to meaningful, engaging learning experiences. We are grateful that you are our trusted partner on this journey. The devotion of Walnut Acres parents is inspiring and because of our shared sense of purpose and caring we will continue to evolve as an inclusive, nurturing learning environment. As the great philosopher Winnie-the-Pooh once commented, “Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.”    

Here’s to a physically and emotionally safe learning year for the entire Walnut Acres community!

Respectfully,

Colleen Dowd

Lucky Walnut Acres Principal