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Delano Union School District works to support students, families amid pandemic

DUSD Classof Mrs Mendoza.jpg

The kindergarten class of Sylvia Mendoza (top row, second from left) from Terrace Elementary School in Delano displays their writing during their Zoom instruction on Jan. 12. For thousands of students in Kern County over the past year, school was virtual.

Delano Union School District leads with a heart when looking at the needs and successes of students and families through social-emotional learning.

Superintendent Rosalina Rivera works tirelessly to ensure the families of DUSD pupils are faring well through the COVID-19 pandemic and helps to support their emotional well-being.

“At DUSD, we care about our students and parents,” Rivera said.

Upon the return to distance learning classes after the winter break, teachers throughout the district kicked off the school day with special activities to help welcome their students back to the classroom.

“These special activities helped to ease the children back into school after their four-week break,” Terrace Elementary School principal Maria Alvizo said. “We want to make sure they are all doing OK.”

When addressing social-emotional learning, Alvizo’s staff uses the district-adopted Second Step curriculum that offers lessons and scenarios to help ensure safe children in a peaceful world. This area has seen additional emphasis at all grade levels during the past few years, which builds upon a focus on SEL that is state mandated in California State Preschool Programs. According to the Second Step website, SEL concepts provide an extra dimension to education, focusing on improving cooperation, communication and decision-making.

In Sylvia Mendoza’s kindergarten class at Terrace, students shared during breakout groups with Mendoza and instructional aide Eric Feliscian the different activities they did during their break. They also sang their "Good Morning" greeting song and watched a Scholastic video on New Year's and its traditions. Mendoza also talked about New Year's resolutions, with their class resolution for 2021 being to wear a mask.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the district developed a help line for families (721-5000, ext. 00600) to call, regardless of their needs (whether academic, technological or family/personal needs). Calls are routed to various departments in order to support families. District preschool classroom staff contact their families at least once a week to see if they are in need of educational support, supplies or other living needs (which are referred to district departments or the help line for additional assistance).

“During the pandemic, we are thankful for the support of countless individuals who have dedicated their time and resources to give back to our district families,” Rivera said. “There have been so many people who have supported and donated to help our staff and students feel special.”

They include Dr. Varanasi, Jose Zamora and team (donation of turkeys), district employee organizations including the Delano Union Elementary Schools Teachers Association and California School Employees Association, Delano Community Alliance, Judge Robert Tafoya, Jesse Mendoza, Shawn Clark of Central Valley Office Supply, Nick Ruiz of San Joaquin Paint and Glass, Steve Gong of Palace Food Depot in Tulare, Gabriel Diaz of LifeHouse Church, and the Esperanza Rising foundation. Delano’s family resource center Community Connections Center also provides services and immediate items to families in need throughout the year, along with food bank distributions the fourth Tuesday of each month.

Mike Bledsoe is director of child development for the Delano Union School District.