The Healdsburg Unified School District started the new school year with positive news of increased kindergarten enrollment and a number of successful student/teacher summer learning programs completed.

Summer learning

Healdsburg students took some time to participate in summer learning camps such as the READ camp at Bishop’s Ranch.

District Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel said kindergarten enrollment was so high this year they had to add an extra class, bringing the total of enrolled kindergartens to 72 with five transitional kindergarteners (TK).

“Typically enrollment is done in the winter and spring. We had 57 total projected and 13 in (TK) but we ended up with 72,” Vanden Heuvel said. “That’s quite a jump, that usually hasn’t happened to us in the summer.”

Healdsburg Elementary School now has four kindergarten classes with 18 students in each class.

Last year, there were 89 total students between the kindergarten and TK program.

Vanden Heuvel said the district usually sees the opposite in kindergarten enrollment due to the high cost of living, students and families tend to trickle out of the district.

This year also marks the start of the newly combined kindergarten program.

In June, the board of trustees voted to combine the charter school and HES elementary school programs. The charter school would serve grades one to five.

Vanden Heuvel said there was concern that combining the programs might have an effect on enrollment.

“We’re pleased that that wasn’t the case,” he said.

Summer learning

Healdsburg district students and staff participated in numerous summer learning programs from the Mike Hauser Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Academy, to English language development, the Bishop’s Ranch READ Camp and equity and trauma informed practices training for district staff.

Twenty incoming eighth-grade students participated in the Mike Hauser academy.

Students mostly worked in business and industry learning and toured facilities such as the Sonoma Jet Center, the Russian River Keeper and Costeaux’s factory in Santa Rosa.

“They got to go to all of these wonderful places and see STEM in action,” said Erin Fender, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. “The big point of this is helping students see that science just doesn’t have to happen in a lab.”

In addition to tours, students also participated in math and science activities, such as figuring out the math behind determining the amount of ingredients needed for 10,000 baguettes.

In collaboration with the Windsor Unified School District and with Cali Calmecac Language Academy, 27 incoming first- to sixth-grade students focused on English language development in reading, writing and math.

“We get about 25 of our rising first- through sixth-graders … and the families are invited in for the instruction,” Fender said.

The program also brings out international instructors from Mexico so students can work in both English and Spanish.

Another summer learning opportunity was the Bishop’s Ranch READ camp for 50 incoming fourth- to sixth-graders.

Fender said the idea with this camp is to make learning to read and write fun, however, they also get to participate in classic camp activities such as swimming lessons and marshmallow roasting.

Teachers and district staff were also kept busy.

Five days were dedicated for math-focused collaborative learning and planning for grades one to five.

Seven teachers completed the self-paced online course, “How to math learn math for teachers” taught by Stanford professor Jo Boaler. There was also a two-day workshop on mathematical mindsets at Stanford University.

There were also workshops on building equity and training in trauma informed practices.

Trustee Aracely Romo-Flores said she was glad the district was able to provide so many summer learning activities to bridge the gap.

Board president Jami Kiff asked Fender if they will continue offering the same programs next year and Fender said so far the answer is “Yes.”

Chronic absenteeism

In an effort to raise awareness on the issues of chronic absenteeism, the board passed a resolution declaring September Attendance Awareness month.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school for any reason including unexcused and excused absences.

According to the resolution, chronic absenteeism can predict lower third-grade reading skills, course failure and eventual drop out.

Absenteeism often affects lower-income students and students of color particularly hard if they happen to not have the resources for lost time.

According to the resolution, the demographic is also more likely to face more systemic barriers in getting to school, such as lack of transportation, health care and or stable housing.

Healdsburg High School classroom update

Trustees unanimously voted for the Healdsburg High School auto shop updates.

New concrete footings and two new auto lifts will be installed.

The project will cost $13,900 and will be funded by Fund 40, the district’s special reserve for capital outlay.

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