October 2017

Dear Walnut Acres Parents,

I relish this time of year, when routines and procedures are established and we are implementing thoughtful plans informed by data while children and adults alike anticipate the approach of the holiday season. This year, however, we must also address the reality of natural and manmade calamities that are difficult to explain to our children.

Talking to Children about Disasters

Although I do not know of any children who have admitted anxiety at school about the recent hurricane disasters, the local fires, or the horrific Las Vegas shooting, a number of parents have expressed their concern about how to talk to children regarding these events.

A valuable family response to natural disasters is to mitigate the negative impact of a tragedy through community service activities. A service response supports fellow citizens, models positive life skills for our children, and helps provide some sense of empowerment (for adults and children) in situations that often lead to a sense of helplessness.

Manmade tragedies may be even more difficult to discuss with children. Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) has collected online resources for use in support of children and families. These resources include approaches to initiating tough conversations with children about current events and what they view in the media as well as ways to confront tragedies in a community. ACSA does not have any specific partnership with the providers of this content, but offers these resources in the hope they will be of some value. I provide them to you with the reminder that active listening is always a foundational practice in communicating with children.
Mass Shooting in Las Vegas: How to talk to students
How to talk to kids about tragedy in Las Vegas
In the aftermath of a shooting, help your children manage distress

From our Counselor

Our counselor, Joanne Finn, is on site on Mondays and Tuesdays as well as alternate Wednesdays. She would be happy to have a conversation with you about communicating with your child regarding recent national tragedies or any other parenting challenges you confront. Meanwhile, here is the latest input from our counselor:

In September, Walnut Acres students have been moving and grooving at the Chill Out Zone! On Mondays during all lunch recesses, students have the opportunity to connect with me while playing with toys and games. When students have a closer connection to a caring adult, they are more likely to seek and allow support when they need it. For example, some students will check in with me when they are having difficulty with peers or are feeling left out. Others may have an exciting change or a new activity in their lives and want to share. Having their experiences acknowledged helps students process their feelings, which in turn leads to a more relaxed school day.

This year the Chill Out Zone activity tables are located out on the recess yard between the ball sheds and snack area. We’ve added some music and scarves for creative movement, and a bubble station. And we have the old standbys, which include games, Legos, and toy figures for doll-house play.

DONATIONS WELCOME! Cleaning out the closets? Chill Out Zone would make good use of gently used board games, Legos or other building type toys, and art, art, art materials. We go through these materials very quickly! The students would love popsicle sticks, yarn, pipe cleaners, new markers, stickers, and drawing paper, paper, paper! We are also seeking gluten-free playdough (available at Lakeshore Learning). A Chill Out Zone donation box will be available in the front office.  If you have questions feel free to email me at FinnJ@mdusd.org.

Upcoming School Activities

Our School Site Council (SSC) is reviewing data and analyzing it to develop our 2017-18 School Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA). The SPSA is our blueprint for our growth as a learning community and the guideline for school expenditures. While information about our updated SPSA is shared at PFC meetings, you may also speak to our SSC parent representatives to gather more input or share your input. Our SSC parent representatives are Shakeya St Julien, Chad Bounds, Catherine Canillas, Melanie Mitsch, and Dara Buzzard. We will continue our conversation about our 2017-18 SPSA at our next SSC meeting on Thursday, 11/9/17. Please note that SSC meetings are public sessions and all are welcome.

Red Ribbon Week is 10/23-10/27. Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by NFP (National Family Foundation), serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. Each day during the week, we will share an anti-drug message in a developmentally appropriate manner. For example, our youngest children will talk about keeping their bodies healthy and being careful about what they put in them. For more information about NFP, click here.

Picture retakes will take place on Monday, 10/30. IClickSmiles has emailed information to every parent. If you have questions or concerns please email iClickSmiles personnel at help@iclicksmiles.com.

Our 10/31 Sing-Out is incorporated into our Halloween celebration. Our schedule will be:

8:00 a.m. Sing-Out for 3rd-5th graders

8:30 a.m. Halloween parade on the black top

9:00 a.m. Sing-Out for TK-2nd graders

Students are invited to wear a costume, but no masks and no weapons, please. Your child’s teacher will send home further details of what is happening in your child’s classroom.

Upcoming MDUSD News

MDUSD is going online for Intradistrict Transfer Requests for the 2018-19 school year. Intradistrict transfers are transfers within schools in MDUSD.

  • Beginning October 17, 2017, the Online application can be found at mdusd.org; select Parent and Community and you will find the Intradistrict application link on the Transfer Information page listed in General News.
  • For students currently enrolled in grades K-11 Online applications must be submitted between 10/17/17and 11/17/17 for the 2018-19 school year. No applications will be accepted after the 11/17/17 deadline.

Incoming Kindergartners for the 2018-19 school year parents/guardians must complete enrollment in their home school. Online applications will be accepted 2/19/18 through 3/9/18. Students MUST be enrolled at their school of residence prior to submitting a transfer request.

If you have a 5th grade or 8th grade student on a current Intradistrict Transfer and you would like to attend a Middle or High School outside your school of residence, you must apply for an Intradistrict Transfer.

The second annual MDUSD COMMUNITY SPEAKER SERIES schedule is now available. The series serves both the goal of learning together but also provides an informal setting to discuss your school needs and to interact with district staff. This series was developed based on input from parents and other stakeholders at our Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Planning Committee. As part of the key goal for Parent/Family & Community Engagement, parents, families and community members will be informed, engaged, and empowered as partners with MDUSD to support student learning. See the LCAP at a Glance report to learn more.

This year’s schedule (all meetings from 6-8 p.m.) includes the following:

October 17, 2017 – Mt. Diablo High School – What Every Parent Needs to Know About Technology and Their Student
January 30, 2018 – College Park High School – Marijuana and Beyond
March 20, 2018 – Northgate High School – Cyber Safety and Above the Fray
April 18, 2017 – Riverview Middle School – School Readiness with First 5
May 29, 2018 – Concord High School – LCAP Budget Workshop

Supporting Our Children

Thank you for all you do to support Walnut Acres as we work to support your children! From our recent Walk & Roll to School event to our first Drop-off Recycling Week (which raised almost $150 towards recycle club funds), we are able to teach our children life skills because you provide such wonderful modeling!

I leave you with a quotation whose author I can’t determine, but which reminds me of many Walnut Acres parent/child interactions I observe: “I can’t promise to fix all your problems, but I can promise you won’t face them alone.” Whether you’re coping with tragedy or participating in wonderful community-building events, I salute you for doing your best to help children understand and negotiate their world!

Respectfully,

Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal

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