EL MONTE – As the smiling faces of Durfee School Spanish dual-language immersion (DLI) students began to pop up on computer screens, heralding the beginning of El Monte City’s 2020-21 school year on Aug. 20, first-grade DLI teacher Maritza Duenas invited them to share in writing how happy they were to return to class and what their favorite color was.
A first day of school like no other, the day featured students engaged in scavenger hunts, stretching, dancing, singing and a determination to show how the power of education can build communities, even virtually.
“After the first day of virtual teaching, I’ve realized the tenacity of our community and teachers is far greater than I originally imagined,” Duenas said. “We will do whatever it takes for our children.”
El Monte City welcomed new and returning students at its 14 District campuses, implementing an instruction plan designed to maximize student achievement, safety and communication between parents and the District, with an emphasis on academics, character and the arts.
“We are very excited to engage academically with our students and the El Monte community,” said Juan Munoz, a principal on special assignment who works with all 14 campus leaders. “This will be a challenging year for us, but we worked hard over the summer to ensure that our students will receive the high-quality education our families have come to expect.”
Earlier this year, a record five El Monte City School District campuses were named 2020 California Distinguished Schools, a testament to that quality instruction.
The District has continued its focus on innovative instruction in 2020-21 despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, launching a Mandarin Dual Language Immersion program at New Lexington School. New Lexington DLI teacher Emily Lu will offer a curriculum that meshes tech and music as students explore new cultures and languages.
Ensuring that every El Monte City student has a tablet or device at home, the District invested nearly $800,000 in new technology tools over the summer, distributing 2,000 Chromebooks, 4,000 earphones and 2,500 laptop bags to complement thousands provided to students in spring.
Student lesson plans will be posted on Mondays, with two separate remote learning platforms: Seesaw for TK/K-3rd graders and Google Classroom for grades four through eight.
Parents can stay connected through the ParentSquare mobile app, a two-way communication tool that gives parents the ability to connect with classroom teachers and receive key District updates.
The first weeks of school will see teachers focusing on connecting with new students, setting expectations and creating a foundation for the school year. Using Leader in Me curriculum, teachers will monitor the socio-emotional health of students, emphasizing digital citizenship and online safety.
A special distance learning meal plan has been implemented by the District. Starting Monday, Aug. 24, families will be able to pick up five days of free meals – including breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner – for each student enrolled. Schools will distribute meals from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with each campus serving as a distribution location once a week.
Students with disabilities will receive instruction appropriate to their needs, according to their Individualized Education Plan. Physical education and music classes will be held weekly.
Information on distance learning scheduling, meal plan distribution, tech support and ParentSquare is available on the El Monte City School District website.
“We are very encouraged by the enthusiasm and spirit shown by our students on this very special first day of school,” Superintendent Dr. Maribel Garcia said. “We know our community is strong and resilient and we will work together to make this a positive and fulfilling school year for everyone. Thank you to our amazing El Monte City faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication.”