Canyon Elementary School, Canyon, CA

Free Community Meals During Distance Learning

Letter from the Principal

Update from the Principal 9/5/2020


I want to start by acknowledging the incredible amount of work everyone is doing to get the year started. Ramona is organizing the materials pick ups and drop offs. The teachers are learning more platforms and curricula and tech than they ever imagined, the parents are making Herculian efforts to support the kids and function as de facto IT specialists (and short order cooks:). I want to thank CEF for organizing and managing their fundraising effort. I want to acknowledge Lola and The CATSS board for their work to build and support our community. And I want to acknowledge Eric Reynolds who is working 24/7 to optimize our learning platform and support the kids! I felt terrible that I forgot to acknowledge him on last night’s back to school call. He was there to answer questions and I just forgot he would be! He just built out a feedback component on the website. Just go to the adorable racoon in the lower right corner. It can help you if you have a problem. You can also give it feedback. As people identify common challenges Eric is building them into the bot’s repertoire, so that it can help people automatically. Please contribute to this effort by sharing all your feedback and ideas!

Book club

Lola and CATSS are going to be doing a parent book club to build community and connect! The first book will be Kimiko Guthrie’s new book, Block Seventeen. Kathleen at Great Good Place for Books has ordered copies for us. So if you’d like to support a local bookstore and a local author and relish in the chance to escape into narrative fiction, you can email her at: or call to reserve your copy today!

Also, Lola and CATSS will be meeting with Eric to discuss a Marketplace function of Critter that will allow for us to have our digital marketplace to support the school. This will facilitate an online art faire! Are you an early adopter? If you would like to help get the Marketplace rolling, and/or if you are an artisan with wares to sell, please reach out to Lola, so that we can include you as we get this off the ground.

Back to School Nights

Thank you so much for attending the back to school nights! It was great to see so many of you. All of the presentations are shared with you on Critter so you can see them.


Our efforts are well underway. On behalf of the school, I would like to thank everyone for their efforts around fundraising and for the contributions we have already received. Please contact Mike Godwin or Raph Steinzig with any CEF related questions. The struggle is real. If you can give, please do!

FYI/If you are interested:

Former Canyon parent and editor of Common Sense Media, Sierra Filucci, debuted Common Sense Parents, a fantastic Facebook group about parenting in a technological world. Join her group at the link above.

These Study Carols were shared in the chat, when Steven Blakely asked about creating workspace for kids.

This is the poem Alix shared at Back to school night.

Brian Coyle had these thoughts in relation to some zoom issues people have brought up:

Zoom bandwidth: in the default HD condition, a 15 person meeting with video on all sides in gallery view requires 2.5 mb download, and 1.5 to 3 mb upload speeds.

Most Zoom issues stem from the upload side. Internet connections have much less upload than download speed. I just tested and got 21 mb down, 5.1 up. Xfinity’s Blast plan boasts 300 mb down, only 5 mb up. The way connections like zoom work, after ten packets get downloaded, one packet is uploaded to verify. If not received, the previous ten packets get sent again. Viola, congestion.

Google “speed test” and see yours. Google’s version shows upload and download, some others only show download. If upload speed is <2 mb, you may have problems if several use the internet.

One way to reduce upload bandwidth is to turn off Zoom’s HD default.

In Zoom click Settings (the gear icon).

Click Video in the left-hand menu.

In the My Video section, uncheck the box beside Enable HD if it is checked.

Also, if your Internet router has an ethernet connection, you can run a link between it and your laptop to get more bandwidth, instead of wireless.

If getting disconnected a lot from Zoom: some computers save power by disconnecting wifi. To fix it, search for the power plan, and make sure it doesn’t turn off devices to save power. On a chromebook there may be something like if the screen goes to sleep the wireless connection ends, which you can toggle off.


Planning Process for Reopening

Dear Canyon Community,

I am so grateful for all of your collective patience, positivity and the resources you find and share.  I am writing today to share where we are in the planning process for reopening.

The teachers and I have been spending the summer reviewing online curriculum materials and designing an online pedagogical experience that will be as effective as possible for the kids.

What is up with the waiver?

There is a potential waiver process which could allow us to petition the health department for permission to open in person for the youngest kids.  We have posted a public hearing notice so that we are able to hold a public hearing at our August Board meeting (which is necessary for the waiver process).

In my meeting with the Contra Costa Health Services today, I was told that there is not yet a criteria checklist for when they will consider waivers.  Parents should not expect any swift action on this process, certainly not before the start of the school year.

It is clear from the survey that many people are on the fence about the safety of an in-person return and are waiting to assess the public health data closer to that time.  I am aware that the public health situation has not improved over the last month.  The indicators, can be found here.

This public hearing on August 11th will be a true public discussion of the pros and cons of a limited reopening when the public health indicators have improved.  At the conclusion of that discussion there will be a board vote.  This will simply be a yay or nay on further investigation of the possibility of a waiver.  If the Board votes not to pursue the process, you will know that.  If the Board votes to attempt to get a waiver, it only means that we will continue to explore next steps.  IT DOES NOT MEAN AN IN PERSON OPTION IS HAPPENING for the start of school.

Distance Learning

You may know, Eric Reynolds, our webmaster, who’s children attended Canyon School.  He has been building us a new Learning Management System this summer that will streamline and improve the distance learning experience for the children.  We are eager to share the platform with you, but we are not quite ready yet due to the technical implementation timeline. Given that staff has not yet been able to access the platform, we will share our initial plan for distance learning at the August 11th Board Meeting.


The state is requiring that all students be caught up on immunizations to return to school, even in a Distance Learning model.  Please ensure your child is completely caught up on all immunizations to be eligible to engage with school in any capacity.

Many of you are reaching out with questions, I encourage you to continue doing this.  I look forward to hearing from you and seeing many of you on August 11th at 7 PM.


Upcoming Events

This Just In ...

Former Canyon School student, Mira Falicki, needs your help. Her father passed away 10 months ago, which presented a sudden and devastating change for her family and especially hard to process with the additional stress that the pandemic has brought on. Over the last year, her mother, Erika, was forced to quit her job of 21 years, something that meant a lot to her. She also filed bankruptcy and is now working somewhere where she gets significantly less pay. She is weighed down by the constant financial stress and grief that accompany all these adjustments. As long as Mira has been alive, her mother has never slowed down or given herself much of a break to keep up with supporting her. Mira is hoping to give her a break with your help. All donations go directly to her mother and go towards the cost of next month’s rent. Any amount is greatly appreciated! Thank you all.

What’s with the raven?

The new school logo was created by Canyon School parent and local resident, Kelley Westling. Crows and ravens are akin to Canyon. They often swoop onto the school playground from redwood tree limbs high above. Inspiration for the logo came from “Camille’s Crows,” a term used by the school community that relates to the large presence of these critters during the school aftercare program, facilitated by Camille Rodriguez.