Greeted by a large number of energetic students, principals and district officials, the senior California education official on Thursday paid a visit to Eisenhower Elementary School in the Garden Grove Unified School District, making praising the campus as a model for safely resuming in-person teaching in a community hit hard by the pandemic.
Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public education, learned firsthand how Eisenhower staff worked together to bring back 550 full-time students after the winter’s COVID-19 surge, with phone calls, school visits and home visits.
He also saw how the school, under the leadership of Principal Beth Cusimano, leverages targeted interventions to address learning disruptions and adopt engagement strategies to build relationships with students and families.
“It’s heartwarming, and I know what I saw here today is exactly what California needs, and what our nation needs, to see examples of how we can make this work. “said Thurmond.
“You know, what’s tricky is making it look easy, and I know it’s not,” he said.
During the afternoon visit, Thurmond observed how fifth-grade teacher Lesly Spangler uses the campus garden to help students reconnect while learning science standards.
He then watched sixth grade teacher Jennifer Zarkades encourage student collaboration on a narrative writing assignment and staff member Roben Alarcon provide targeted literacy interventions to compensate for learning loss with a small group of students. second year students.
Located on Lilly Street in Garden Grove, Eisenhower Elementary serves a student body of 84.7% Latinx and 13.4% Vietnamese. Most are first-generation or immigrated when they were young, and over 90 percent are entitled to free or reduced lunches.
Still, Eisenhower Elementary is known to offer a strong academic program, showing continued growth in condition assessments and other metrics. In addition to its one-to-one computer-to-student ratio, the school offers robotics and coding programs to equip and engage students.
Eisenhower was also shortlisted for the prestigious Disney Musicals in Schools program, resulting in elaborate musical productions each year.
‘An extraordinary example’
When Garden Grove Unified began its phased approach to reopening in October, Eisenhower was one of the first to return with proven mitigation measures. Since reopening in April after the winter wave, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported among staff or students.
“Eisenhower Elementary provides an amazing example of what can happen when school staff wholeheartedly put the needs of students and families at the center of their work,” said the principal.
As schools in California make plans for learning how to recover and accelerate, Thurmond encouraged them to take advantage of strategies such as those modeled at Eisenhower.
“The caring team at this campus is focused on the physical, academic and socio-emotional well-being of the students,” he said. “They do this by engaging students through exploratory outdoor education, incorporating targeted early literacy interventions and going the extra mile to work with families to provide tools and resources to better support children. students at home.
Thurmond’s appearance in Garden Grove is part of a series of campus visits to showcase schools that have safely resumed in-person teaching, adopted innovative approaches to filling learning gaps, and responded to challenges. mental health needs.
Other guests included Garden Grove Unified School Board President Lan Nguyen, Vice President Walter Muneton and Administrator Teri Rocco, as well as Superintendent Gabriela Mafi, district and school staff, union representatives and members of the PTA.