The saying, “Same stuff, different day” has never felt more apropos. The hours and days are running into each other as weeks of sheltering-in-place leave us yearning for normalcy, and a return for the simple joys of life: lounging maskless on a beach, playing softball or bridge or poker with friends, relaxing into a pedicure, and taking in a good movie. In a theater. With popcorn and strangers and those weird fruit candies that get stuck in your back teeth.
Fortunately, some agencies are doing their best to help their charges navigate these trying times. San Lorenzo Valley High School Principal Jeff Calden is in charge of keeping his students headed towards success. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding (or so he leads us to believe). Over shared coffee and pumpkin pie inside a local coffee shop (but really probably via email), Calden shared an eagle-eye view of his 720 kids.
Press Banner: First, tell me about how the high school is managing distance learning. Do you have any way of gauging its success?
Jeff Calden: I think overall we are doing pretty well. When everything shut down, we took two days off to plan and then hit the ground running with the ideas we had been working on. We started with our regular schedule online every day.
We were trying to maintain some normalcy by keeping everything familiar. Having Schoology as our platform and then adding Zoom helped us "go live" pretty quickly. After Spring Break we downshifted to shorter days as the full schedule was not sustainable once we knew we were out for the duration of the school year. We have been tracking who is showing up online through a Google sheet and tracking work completed through Schoology, so we can see who is staying connected with school. More importantly, it lets us know who isn't connecting so we can reach out and offer whatever support the students and families may need.
PB: Speaking of distance, it sounds like this year's senior graduation plans will be held at least six feet apart from everyone else. What is the plan for helping seniors obtain their diplomas and celebrate their success?
JC: We have two Graduation Events planned for our Seniors. We have started filming every piece of the graduation ceremony in our PAC - one student at a time walking across the stage - speakers speaking, musical performances, the whole thing. Our theater manager, Kylan Thureockes, is filming everything and will edit it into Graduation 2020: The Movie, which we will have available for kids to download online to commemorate their senior year. We are also having a live ceremony with a car parade through the tri-campus in Felton that will be broadcast live on local radio so people at home and those in the cars will hear each graduate's name called as they drive through the school. We like the idea of combining the live festivity of a parade with the formality of a film that gives this class who lost so much something no other class has ever had.
PB: In addition to all the stores and shops that have been closed, Grad Night has been shelved as well. How are you managing a class full of disappointed seniors who won't be able to enjoy the traditions of graduation?
JC: Grad Night is something unique that we can't just recreate in any way right now. We have been coordinating with our amazing grad night parent group who worked so hard this year on planning and raising money. We hope to still provide some surprises for these kids. Stay tuned!
PB: Any special kudos you'd like to share?
JC: YES! None of this would be happening without many wonderful people who care deeply about these seniors. I am so grateful for everyone who has pitched in to help, including the following awesome people: Leslie Burns, Claire Hackett, Danielle Winters, Jennifer Kelly, Dan Arndt, Laurie Bruton, Kylan Thureokes, Jeff Kitts, Charlotte Achen, Katrina Mount, Jeannette Lange, Tina Davey at KBCZ radio, every parent on the Grad Night committee, our entire maintenance and custodial departments, the Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol.
PB: And you, Mr. Calden. Many, many thanks for all you do.