State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visits youngsters in Chula Vista Thursday. Photo credit:@CVESDNews, via Twitter

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond joined Chula Vista elementary students for class Thursday, calling them “a model for the state and nation” during pandemic recovery.

Thurmond visited Castle Park Elementary and Joseph Casillas Elementary in the South Bay community that was among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The two campuses are unique in that they remained open for in-person learning by implementing safety measures as officials offered support for students and families.

The schools are two of 49 in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, which serves nearly 30,000 students. Nearly 70% of the district’s student body identifies as Hispanic and 36% as English learners.

“These schools are a model for the state and nation in how we support students while recovering from this pandemic and preparing for a full return to in-person learning,” Thurmond said. “Through inspiring investments in school-based mental health support, comprehensive safety measures such as rapid COVID testing, and engaging instruction individualized to student needs, families should feel confident that schools like these are the safest, best places for their children.”

The schools offered Thurmond examples of their work with students, from the use of various physical safety measures to the provision of onsite mental health support. They also demonstrated learning acceleration and family engagement strategies.

In addition, he learned about the district’s system to help parents support their children’s social and emotional wellness at home.

The district has 53 school psychologists and every site has access to a school psychologist. In addition, as part of its reopening plans, CVESD is funding part-time mental health support professionals at each of its 41 non-charter school sites through June 15.

“We believe in educating the whole child through rigorous academic instruction but also with behavioral and social-emotional learning and support,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo. “It was amazing to share with the state superintendent how our schools are implementing safety measures, dealing with learning loss, dealing with the trauma that our students experienced – and how we are mitigating the effects.”

The district is one of 79 in California that offer free rapid antigen testing which can provide COVID-19 test results in as little as 15 minutes. In addition, officials host family vaccination clinics on a weekly basis.

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