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State Schools Superintendent Thurmond Visits Chula Vista Elementary Schools

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visiting Joseph Casi...

Credit: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Above: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visiting Joseph Casillas Elementary School in Chula Vista, May 14, 2021.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond joined elementary students for class Thursday on two campuses in San Diego County which have stayed open for in-person learning by implementing safety measures and offering supports for students and families.

Thurmond visited Castle Park Elementary and Joseph Casillas Elementary, both located in Chula Vista, an area among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The schools are two of the 49 schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, which serves nearly 30,000 students. The district's student body has 68% identified as Hispanic and 36% as English learners. CVESD is the largest transitional kindergarten through sixth-grade school district in California and is approximately five miles from the border of Mexico.

"These schools are a model for the state and nation in how we support students while recovering from this pandemic and preparing for a full return to in-person learning," Thurmond said. "Through inspiring investments in school-based mental health support, comprehensive safety measures such as rapid COVID testing, and engaging instruction individualized to student needs, families should feel confident that schools like these are the safest, best places for their children."

Throughout the day, Thurmond witnessed examples of the schools' whole-child support, with layers of physical safety measures combined with onsite mental health support, learning acceleration and family engagement strategies. In addition, he learned about CVESD's series developed for parents to provide ways to support their children's social-emotional wellness at home as well as resources to enhance classroom practices, such as restorative circles, social-emotional lessons and mindfulness.

CVESD has 53 school psychologists who support district schools, including charter schools. Every site has access to a school psychologist. In addition, as part of its reopening plans, CVESD is funding part-time mental health support professionals at each of its 41 non-charter school sites from April 12 to June 15, 2021.

"We believe in educating the whole child through rigorous academic instruction but also with behavioral and social-emotional learning and support," said CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo. "It was amazing to share with the State Superintendent how our schools are implementing safety measures, dealing with learning loss, dealing with the trauma that our students experienced -- and how we are mitigating the effects.

"We are deploying what we call a strengths-based focus on trauma, where our counselors, social workers, principals and teachers are utilizing social-emotional constructs, teaching emotional self-regulation to empower students and parents to overcome the rigors and challenges they had to go through during the pandemic," Escobedo said.

CVESD is one of 79 school districts in California that are offering free rapid antigen testing which can provide COVID-19 test results in as little as 15 minutes. This antigen testing is available to all staff and students throughout the school district. In addition, CVESD is hosting family vaccination clinics on a weekly basis.

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