January 2019 Principal's Message

posted Jan 15, 2019, 5:26 PM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Jan 15, 2019, 5:28 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Dear Walnut Acres Parents,

I was happy to welcome all your children and our wonderful staff back to school last week. Thank you to all parents who remembered me over the holiday! I lost my list of gift providers and only those who sent gifts with affixed labels received a gratitude note from me. My thanks to those who did not get a personalized appreciation card – the gingerbread, pumpkin bread, and other tasty treats, along with candles and cups and ornaments, added to my delightful holiday, despite my broken ankle!

As we all resume our collaboration to make the most of this great learning season, I have a variety of updates for you.

Personnel Updates

We have a new head custodian, Robert Queen, who started earlier this month. Robert is replacing our substitute custodian, Nathan Williams, who was reassigned to Westwood Elementary. Please introduce yourself to Robert if you see him, and let’s make him feel welcome as he learns our routines and our community.

Doug Grebe will be returning to work as of 1/15. He will still be using a cane, but he is ready to continue teaching and eager to reconnect with students and colleagues!

Our part-time speech and language therapist, Rediet Kifle, is being reassigned to another school, and our full-time speech and language therapist, Mollie Strain, will be continuing service for all Walnut Acres students who receive speech or language support.

STEAM Day - A New WA Event

Not to be confused with our annual Science/STEM Fair that culminates in the district STEM Fair, Walnut Acres is introducing a new STEAM Day (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) on Friday, 1/18, for students in grades TK-5! Each grade will have an opportunity to collaboratively investigate and learn together during the day. Specifically, grade level teams will be invited to explore various stations to engage in STEAM activities such as Leonardo’s Bridge, Spheros, BeeBots, Keva Planks, Origami, Paper Airplanes, and more!

Thanks to Amanda Graves, who teaches in 4th grade, we are experimenting with this new Walnut Acres event that should be fun for kids and families. Parents are invited to volunteer in the MUR to support students as they learn. Check Konstella to see the day’s schedule and sign up to volunteer as you choose.

The school-day activities will be followed by an evening event.  Families are invited to return to school with your child on 1/18 between 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. to explore STEAM activities together. Come and enjoy our first-ever evening STEAM Night!

Facility Updates

I am excited to announce that our kiln room is updated and our kiln is now repaired and ready to be used to bake the work of Walnut Acres creative artists! We thank Maintenance & Operations (M&O) for their labor and financing on this project. 

I am also happy to report that we are getting a filtered water fountain with cold (refrigerated) water in our MUR courtesy of M&O. I’ll let you know when that project is complete. You should also know that our 5th grade girl scout troop instigated the district’s largesse!

How did that happen? The girls asked me about raising funds for a filtered water fountain, and when I contacted M&O about the project, I learned that all elementary schools are receiving one installed filtered fountain, paid-for by the district. While talking to the M&O representative, our school was moved up on the list to get our fountain. So, the scouts have already supported our school in advance of beginning their own project!

District Plan for Future Facility Updates

With the passage of Measure J, the district has begun the process of planning for site improvements across MDUSDRenovations will include security enhancements and other facility improvements.

To prioritize facility needs across the district, MDUSD will collect input from community stakeholders including students in 5th, 7th, and 11th grades, teachers and staff, as well as parents and community members through a survey. MDUSD leaders are eager to gather your input and perspective about ways that our Walnut Acres facility needs to be upgraded! This includes security-related needs. Please take 5-10 minutes to share your perspective with district leadership by filling out the online survey by 1/25:

English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MDUSDparents

Spanish: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MDUSDparents_sp

Following the analysis of survey input from each school, there will also be a series of Town Hall meetings for community members to review drafts of site facility needs and ask questions about plans being formulated for each physical location. The meetings will be grouped by feeder pattern. The date for the Town Hall that includes Walnut Acres is Tuesday, 2/19, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Northgate High School.

School Site Council (SSC) members will officially represent Walnut Acres teachers, staff and parents at the Town Hall event, but all community members are invited to participate in the process.  Let me be the first to invite you to join SSC members to share your input about Walnut Acres facility needs at Northgate on 2/19 from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. You should also get a formal invitation from the district.  

Basic Safety

While our district will help each site maximize Measure J funds to upgrade their facilities, we need to remember basic safety rules to keep our children safe. Children’s lives are in your hands as you drive and walk on our campus! For just the few minutes you are here, make their safety paramount over the meeting you must rush to or the many chores you must complete. Life is busy, and we are all over-burdened, but imagine how you would feel if your distraction caused an injury to a child!

  1. Drop your children off at 7:45 a.m. when we have adult supervision for children…not before!
  2. Drop children off where they will have a safe route into school. Do not drop children off at a spot where they must illegally cross the street or run past moving cars in the parking lot or drop-off zone. Last week I had to remind 4 parents waiting in the staff parking lot for dismissed students that their children would have to walk across 3 car lanes in order to get to their waiting parents. That is terribly dangerous!
  3. Walk in the crosswalks during traffic times. Children are watching. If you follow the rules, they will know the rules matter!
  4. Follow all drop-off and pick-up rules, as detailed in the Walnut Acres Handbook you received and acknowledged reading with your signature at the beginning of the school year.
  5. Remember that we do not have supervision on the playground after school. All children are expected to head home directly after school unless they are participating in an adult-led enrichment class. If you want your child to play on the playground, you are responsible to provide supervision.
  6. Sign-in at the office when you visit during school hours and wear the volunteer name tag you will receive there, so children and adults know that you are a “safe person” on campus.

To reduce drive-thru traffic, save gas money, and take positive action for our environment while adding fun and exercise to your student’s routine, consider a family New Year’s resolution of walking or biking to school.

PFC Meeting Tuesday, 1/15

Reminder that all parents are welcome at our monthly PFC meetings to learn more about what is happening on campus and to share your input. The next meeting is tonight, Tuesday, 1/15 from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in the library at Walnut Acres, and we will be discussing PFC leadership and the PFC budget for next year. I hope to see you there!

Here’s to a Great New Year

There is no more awesome or challenging job than parenting, and at Walnut Acres we look forward to working with you in 2019 to encourage our unique and beautiful children to dream big and begin the journey of growing into those dreams. Or as the great dreamer, Walt Disney wrote, “First, think.  Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare.”

Here’s to a year of thinking, dreaming, believing, and daring!

Your lucky principal,

Colleen Dowd