A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 09/12/2019

Dear Canyon Community,

I have a few important topics I plan to address at Back to School Night. In the interest of ensuring everyone gets the information, I will also include them in this email. It is long but all important information.

Potential PG&E Power shut offs:
PG&E has told municipalities that it will cut power in the event of a high fire risk. If they do so, it may take 72 hours to turn the power back on. The Canyon School Board met Tuesday night. Among the discussion topics was what to do in the event that PG&E shuts off the power due to high fire risk. I have been communicating with area Superintendents to better understand their plans in the event this was to occur. Here is what you need to know now: If PG&E cuts power to the school for high fire risk, we will immediately contact you through our OneCallNow reverse 911 phone system and alert you to the situation. I conducted a “test” call from OneCallNow this afternoon as a reminder about Back to School Night. Did you receive it? If not, let Ramona know. If power were to be cut during the school day, we would continue the remainder of the school day but we would not reopen the school until the power had been reliably restored.

We understand an unexpected school closure will be a challenge for many parents. We hope it doesn’t happen! The safety of the students and staff is paramount. If PG&E cuts power for high fire risk and we do not yet have a generator, we do not feel it would be safe or appropriate to hold school.

We are in the process of examining our electrical needs and exploring the possibility of getting a generator, but in the meantime, the above is the plan. When we begin talking about the 20-21 calendar, we will also consider building in extra days at the end of the year in case they become necessary due to weather-related school closure. This is a common practice in areas with snow. The calendar is typically built with 5 extra days in June. At some point in the spring the Board would determine the “actual” last day of school based on how many were used. If there were no school closures the school year would end 5 days early.

We had our first fire drill last week and the kids were great. We will do other drills as well. We do NOT conduct active shooter drills, as many people find this traumatizing– instead we will conduct a wild animal drill (what would you do if a Coyote got into the school?). This will accomplish the same outcome but not offer a horrific violent image to young children. With 678 we can discuss varied scenarios and plans of action. There are always additional safety issues to consider. If you would like to be part of an emergency preparedness committee, please let me know. I would love a small cadre of parents and community members to think through ways we can prepare for any potential crisis.

Math Placements for grades 3-8:
We strive to offer a rigorous and highly differentiated math program that meets the needs of each learner. In the upper grades, we assess students to determine their current proficiency levels and aim to build math classes that will challenge and support each child appropriately. In the 345 class this year, we are offering 4 levels of math. In the 678 class we are offering both Algebra 1 and Geometry 1 in addition to 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. This year we are experimenting with instructors teaching multiple concurrent sections. For example in 345, Kirsten is teaching the 3rd grade math course and Lily will be teaching both 4th and 5th grade math with the support of Steve Miller. In this way, all students receive high levels of instructional skill and support. This may look like groups of kids working for part of the math block with Lily and then spending part of the math block engaged in practice with Steve’s support and supervision. Lily may grab 4th and 5th graders together to review a particular skill or launch an assignment. Virginia will be teaching a small group of accelerated 5th graders.

In the 678 class, Alix will be teaching 6th grade math and Geometry 1. So she may have those kids all in one space and move between them checking in, having discussions and launching lessons. Kids will at times work independently, with her or collaboratively. Virginia will be teaching Algebra 1. Lily will be teaching 7th and 8th grade math and Steve will be supporting. Your child probably knows their math placement at this time. Please reach out if you have a concern, so that we are able to address it. We do our best to accommodate children’s desire for challenge as long as the instructor believes that the student has enough of the precursor skills to be successful.

In the state of California school funding is based on average daily attendance (ADA). This means that if we were fully enrolled with 72 kids and everyone attended 180 days of school, we would receive full funding. The state essentially multiplies our enrollment by our attendance and then divides by the school days to determine our funding. When we submit this information to the state we are allowed to pick the ADA from the better of this year and last year. Based on last year’s attendance our 18-19 ADA is 66.33. We used 17-18 data last year which was 67.69. This means that even though we had 72 kids last year, we only received funding for 67.69 children.

What this means is that we need to both increase our middle school enrollment and drastically improve our attendance. Kelley Westling has made a fabulous flyer. Please stop by the office and get one if you have a good idea of where you might hang it. We are actively seeking 8th graders. We gained a 7th grader last week and an 8th grader this week. Please welcome Preston (grade 7) and madison (grade 8). Ideally, we would gain 4-5 eighth graders and 2-3 seventh graders by the end of September. We do not have space in any other grades. Though all are welcome to join the waitlist and should contact Ramona to do so.

The attendance issue is complicated. We have spoken before about the impact on the classroom, the Board’s ability to revoke inter-district transfers for poor attendance and the Education Code on truancy. I have school age kids as well and understand the visits to elderly relatives, the cost of plane travel on the busiest days, the desire for students to be able to participate in once in a lifetime experiences that conflict with the school calendar. For health safety and comfort of everyone, we do not want sick kids at school. However, we all need to understand that every absence, excused or unexcused, costs the school about $70. It doesn’t matter why the child is out. An absence can be excused (so the School Board is not seeing the absence as truancy), and still cause the school to lose money.

If you are absent for 5 continuous days, you can apply for an Independent Study which does mean that the attendance is counted for the school and we get the funding. However, our auditor does check to ensure your child completed the work. If your kids don’t come to school, we lose money.

Last spring I started researching the possibility of a bus service that we could contract (paid for by parents) to provide transportation from some popular locations to school. If you are remotely interested in the possibility of your child riding a bus, please click the link to complete a very brief survey. This information about numbers, locations and pricing will help me get a realistic quote. https://forms.gle/Xpfj2oAksCpoifN79

Please remember that kids should wear sneakers (or bring them) and clothing that allows for athletic activity every day that they have PE. 345 has PE every day but Wednesday. 678 has PE Monday, Thursday, Friday. First and second graders have PE on Mondays and fridays.

Students in 345 who enjoy playing in the Creek, should consider keeping some back up clothes in their backpacks. We have noticed that many third and fourth graders would benefit from extra clothing:) A large ziploc bag with a change of clothes in it is a great thing to have just in case!

All kids should really aim to wear protective footwear every day. When kids are running around in the grove they can get sticks in their sandals and sneakers would work better.

Conflict Resolution:
If you have a concern with a staff member or parent, I would urge you to start by speaking directly to the people involved in an effort to communicate what you have observed and your feelings about it. If that is ineffective or too difficult to do, you are welcome to come to me for help. If you have a concern with school administration and feel that communicating directly with the office staff is not effective, you are welcome to speak to a Canyon School Governing Board member.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and welcome your support to make Canyon School an even more special place.