August 2017 Back to School Message from Dr. Dowd

posted Sep 13, 2017, 6:06 PM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Sep 13, 2017, 6:06 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Welcome to the 2017-18 school year, Walnut Acres Parents!

I hope your summer has provided some memorable family time and that your child is learning from your adventures while regularly getting lost in reading a book, a magazine, a graphic novel, a comic book or some other sort of text - online or bound - everyday.

Although summer is still officially in session for teachers, many of us are here preparing to offer a warm and welcoming return to our prized students. As you join us in our preparations, here are some highlights for the new school year:


In order to maintain accurate demographic data, including emergency contact information, we need your input. This is crucial for safety reasons, because if your child is involved in an emergency, such as illness or accident at school, we want to be able to contact you or your selected representative immediately.

Please go to HomeLink (click here) to verify and update your address, personal phone numbers, and emergency contacts.

On Jaguar Day, August 17, 2017, we will have a list of those who have completed this task on HomeLink, so that you can immediately receive your child’s class assignment. If you have not completed the task, you will be asked to update your demographic and emergency data when you arrive at Jaguar Day.

Family and Parent Activities to Open the School Year

Parents new to Walnut Acres are invited to join the New Parent Orientation on Tuesday, 8/15, at 6:00 p.m. to hear more about our community and our culture. We hope that you will also stay for the first PFC meeting of the year immediately following the Orientation at 7:00 p.m. to learn how our dedicated and proactive parents support our learning programs.

We have a New Student Welcome Picnic planned, as well. On Friday, 8/18, at 11am, 1st-5th grade Walnut Acres newcomers are invited to bring a bag lunch to enjoy a meal and a tour with returning students. If you are new to the school, you should have already received an invitation from the PFC New Families team to the picnic.

Jaguar Day is Thursday, 8/17, and we look forward to seeing you there between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. to confirm your demographic information, get your child’s class assignment, and sign up for the myriad of opportunities available to support our school. These include options to volunteer in classrooms, the library, and in our Learning Center, and to donate to our crucial Jaguar Fund, which is pivotal to maintaining many of our personnel as well as programs for students. (Click here for the financial pages of the PFC website to see how PFC money is allocated this year.)

Please arrive to Jaguar Day at the time designated for you (based on the first letter of your last name) to avoid long lines.

O-Z                  3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

H-N                 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

A-G                 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

All (A-Z)           6:00 - 6:30 pm.

To learn all you need to know about Jaguar Day, go to the PFC website.  To find the  “All-In-One Form", go to All-in-One Form.

Walnut Acres staff are enthusiastically preparing for the arrival of our students on ourFirst Day of the School Year on Tuesday, 8/22 beginning at 7:55 a.m. Both early and late kindergarten friends will arrive at 7:55 am and leave at 11:17 am for Tuesday only. We invite you to stay for coffee and pastries, and an opportunity to chat with other parents after the morning bell rings.

While we won’t offer breakfast every day, we do advise you to get your child to school every day on time so your student doesn’t feel confused, out-of-step, and behind the learning curve! Check out my letter on the crucial role of daily, timely attendance on our website home page under Current News or click here.

Our teachers invite you to a series of grade level evenings to learn about their curriculum and instruction plans during our Back to School Night events. I offer a 15 minute State-of-our-School overview for interested parents at 5:45 and then the parents move to individual classrooms at 6:00 pm.  Note: SDC and 5th Grade BTS nights do not include the 15 minute State-of-the-School segment.

Back to School Night Schedule:

8/23     4th grade        5:45-7:00 p.m.

8/24     5th grade        6:00-8:00 p.m. (BTS Night followed by Outdoor Ed Orientation)

8/29     SDC (TK-5th)   5:00-6:00 p.m.

8/30     1st grade         5:45-7:00 p.m.

8/31     2nd grade        5:45-7:00 p.m.

9/6       3rd grade        5:45-7:00 p.m.

9/7       TK/K grades    5:45-7:00 p.m.

A Volunteer Opportunity

We need 1 more parent volunteer to serve as School Site Council representative for 2017-19. I will send out a ballot the first week of school if 1 more volunteer can be placed on the docket. Please e-mail me if you would be willing to make a commitment for each first Thursday of the month from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. In case you are wondering, the ballot cannot be online according to regulations, which is why the ballot is sent home for your vote.

Parent Learning Opportunity

On 8/19 (Saturday), MDUSD will host a Back-to-School Parent Conference at Loma Vista Adult Center (1266 San Carlos Drive, Concord). The conference is from 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. and is designed to equip and empower parents to support children at school. Call 925-685-7340 ext. 6720 or click here to reserve childcare space or ask questions regarding the conference. The key note speaker is Dr. Ronald Mah, Licensed MFT. His topic is “Parenting: Philosophy, Principles, Practice, and Practicalities.”


I previously shared with you that Mariteresa Arenson, who has been teaching at Woodside, will be joining us in 2nd grade this year. Rediet Kifle will be our speech and language therapist while 2 occupational therapists, Bonnie Sherek and Shiela Stosick, will join our special education team. Our intervention team has 2 new members, with Catherine Foster, math specialist, providing math intervention support for the first time at Walnut Acres, and a 14-year veteran teacher, Jean Condon, providing ELD (English Language Development) classes.

Noon Supervisors Needed

If you would like to earn money supervising students while they eat and play at lunch between 11:20-1:00 p.m. please contact the office at 925 939-1333. We need supervisors every day, but supervisors collaborate for flexible scheduling.

Facility Updates

Along with our personnel changes, we have shifted a few rooms to allow for kindergarten reduction, 1st grade growth, and music room space. Check out the 2017-18 Walnut Acres school map on our website (click here) for details.

M&O as well as Measure C personnel have been working on our campus this summer. You will notice new ADA accessible bathrooms in C wing, updated Wing A bathrooms, as well as a new rubberized surface for the kindergarten playground with new play structureequipment. You may also notice our newly painted library, a few new classroom doors, andmore even pavement around our campus.

Insurance Option

Mt. Diablo Unified School District does not carry medical insurance for students injured on school premises so the district has approved an optional medical and dental accident insurance plan for parents. The District does not act as agent for any insurance provider. If purchased, it is a separate contract between the buyer and the insurance company. To view the letter regarding the plan and get directions to access an application for insurance go to the “Student Services” section of the MDUSD website, scroll down the list of options, then click on “Parent Information Packet” or click here to see the letter on our school website.

Here’s to Working Together!

A fundamental key to your student’s success at school is the relationship you and your child’s new teacher forge together. Don’t underestimate the value of this collaboration and remember that talking to your child’s teacher is always the first step to overcoming inevitable challenges that arise. Click here to read a worthwhile article about parents and educators working together.

Also remember that I intend to be helpful, so my door is always open. As the minister, H.E. Lubbock wisely commented, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”  Here’s to staff/parent collaboration as we create a symphony of learning for our children in 2017-18!

Your lucky principal,

Colleen Dowd