While schools within the Los Alamitos Unified School District are open, the fragmentation required by policies aimed at keeping students safe has also prompted an initiative to create a larger sense of connectedness.
With students attending hybrid classes (limited classroom time) and more than 2,000 students attending school at home, Board President Meg Cutuli said it is critical to make students feel like they are still together.
“We want these kids to feel totally connected,” said Cutuli, “and when they are able to return to the school sites that they are truly a part of it and have not been left by the wayside.”
“They are still a part of our school family,” she emphasized.
The board president expressed her appreciation for the many teachers and administrators that have initiated interesting and creative programs to promote unity within the system.
The system must not overlook “our students’ social and emotional health,” said Cutuli during her report to the board at its most recent meeting.
The regimentation of students, coupled with their everyday vigil against the virus, has the potential to affect student’s mental health, she said.
Students are happy to be back in school she said, but they are also besieged by COVID protocols. “When you have to walk one way down the hallway, when you have to keep tugging at your mask, when you wear glasses and they fog up, we all know and deal with these things,” she said.
Cutuli said teachers and administrators recognize “the impact of COVID-19 on all of our children.” She lauded a number of programs throughout the system designed to promote enhanced unity among the students.
Also, said Cutuli, programs that somewhat “bring back the joy and fun of attending school” are both necessary and appropriate for the times. They will make it a lot easier when the students attending school via LosAl@Home return to their campuses.
Accordingly, she said the system had launched an effort to connect in-class and online students as Cutuli lauded various programs throughout the system that are making a difference:
• Rossmoor Elementary “Read-A-Thon” that raised nearly $30,000 and brought students together through storytelling. Also, she said they shared art through a virtual art night and where families can participate in art lessons.
•McGaugh Elementary school art teacher, Ms. Brim, invited students to share pictures of their artwork on her website creating a virtual gallery for all students to see. The art program at McGaugh is funded through Project SEEK.
• Los Al Elementary started “VideoPals,” connected students in one grade to others, “celebrating what makes each and every one of our Tigers unique.” Students make little videos and share them to “start a conversation.
• Los Al@Home students participated into a program entitled “Practicing Gratitude” where they expressed appreciation for teachers, parents and fellow students. Also, more than 100 students recorded themselves reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
• Lee Elementary had a lot of fun decorating Blaze pizzas for Halloween as they hosted a “Spooktacular Pizza” contest.
• Weaver Elementary had a similar event, Literacy O’Lantern, wherein pumpkins were carved representing favorite characters from a book. Both traditional and online students were invited to participate.
• Hopkinson Elementary held inclusive zoom meetings that linked LosAlA@home with in-class students and families. They focused on community service, philanthropy and leadership characteristics. “LosAl@Home students truly feel like they are a part of Hopkinson Elementary.”
• McAuliffe Middle hosted “Birdwatch Student News” reporting on events around campus and they are hosting two upcoming events, including a student mask competition and a “Lip Sync Concert.”
• Oak Middle school created more than 20 virtual student clubs, created a Google site where students at home and traditional can both participate.
• LosAl@Home Middle and High are hosting a leadership class and a Haunted Hallways contest, and they are automatically invited to participate in all traditional middle and high school school activities.
• Los Al High School hosted a Haunted Hallways contest, a student face mask decorating contest and a classroom decorating competition.
“We need to bring the joy of being a kid back to our students,” said Cutuli, who expressed appreciation to everyone assisting in this effort.