In 2018, Benicia High School’s Janari Boone admitted to being anxious before the start of the first game of the season.
After all, he was a freshman linebacker, starting on the varsity football team.
“It was crazy,” Boone said. “I was nervous and I was scared, but people told me, ‘Relax, you’ve been doing this your whole life’ since I had always played against older players before. But on the first play of the first game, I made a tackle and settled down.”
When Boone starts the first game of the 2020-21 season, he may not experience any tension. Instead, the feeling may be more surreal.
The Benicia High School Youth Advocacy Club made a video presentation at the recent statewide Virtual Youth Summit as a resource to help peers cope with the stresses of Covid-19 and distance learning.
“The result is a video and presentation on Brain Dance, a full body-brain exercise that reduces stress, increases levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, and helps develop new neural connections,” according to a statement released by the Solano County Office of Education.
“We created brain dance to give young developing minds a way to grow,” sophomore club member Lillian Theis said in the statement. “We thought making a video would be a fun and beneficial way to reach younger audiences.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, schools were scrambling to keep lunch and breakfast available to students through pick up options at one school site. While some students were still able to utilize this valuable resource, some did not have transportation or means to get there, leaving much of the food to go to waste each day.For now, the program remains free to all students. Robert Semple Elementary parents Tawnya Cassidy and Diederich Burton saw the need for students to receive these important meals and stepped up to serve as delivery drivers to help, forming the Facebook group Benicia Schools Volunteer Food Delivery Services.
The Solano County Office of Education on Wednesday celebrated all the certificated and classified employees nominated as part of the Educators of the Year program.
“The video highlights that honor each nominee in this year’s virtual celebration are truly heartwarming. Solano County’s certificated and classified employees of the year nominees are all passionate and committed people who have put their colleagues and students first. We are so proud to recognize each honoree with a video celebration of their dedication and hard work,” Solano County Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson said in a statement.
Solano schools’ common mission to support, educate and graduate students was in high relief Wednesday when the Solano County Office of Education held an online celebration for a select group of school-support employees and teachers.
Every year, school districts countywide nominate one teacher and one classified employee to be recognized as an Educator of the Year.
The prerecorded celebration, which got underway at 3 p.m. and made necessary because of the ongoing pandemic, was a salute to six classified employees and seven teachers and paraeducators.
Judi Honeychurch did not face a challenger in her last election and will have no need to campaign this fall, either.
Judi Honeychurch“I look forward to the challenges of the future and working with the superintendent and the teachers and staff,” said Honeychurch, who will enter her third term on the Fairfield-Suisun School District board of trustees.
She is the only incumbent who does not have a challenger.
Clifford Gordon, owner of Gordon’s Music & Sound in downtown Fairfield, pulled and filed candidacy papers Thursday for the Trustee Area 1 seat held by Bethany Smith. Trustee Area 2 incumbent Joan Gaut will run against Leslie Unverferth, and Area 6 incumbent John Silva faces Ana Petero.
Zoom accounts. Masks. Decent WiFi. It’s not the typical back-to-school shopping list, but then again 2020 has been anything but normal due to COVID-19.
With the start of the school year right around the corner (Aug. 17 in Solano County) teachers, administrators and school board members are currently working quicker than The Flash to make things run smoothly when students return back to class.
When the students do return it won’t be on campuses as the Solano County Office of Education announced three weeks ago that local schools will start the new school year with distance learning. This is because Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in July that that schools in counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list begin the school year via distance learning. Solano County is on that list.
If the Benicia Unified School District wants to hold classes in schools instead of online this fall, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan on Tuesday outlined the state’s waiver process for K-6 schools.
Solano County is currently on California’s COVID-19 coronavirus “Watch List.”
Pan, the former health officer for Alameda County, said K-6 schools can apply for a waiver to begin in-person instruction if they are located in a county that meets several criteria in spite of being on the state’s Watch List.
The latest student-created public art installation is now on display, marking the third year of a successful public art collaboration between the Benicia Unified School District and the City of Benicia Arts and Culture Commission’s Public Art Committee.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face through my art in these uncertain times,” said student artist Emery Lee, whose mural panel is featured in the public art installation.
During freshman year, Katie Han was one of 80 students tied for third place in class ranking.
By senior year, she stood alone as the valedictorian at Benicia High School.
Han was recognized for that honor when Benicia handed out diplomas during a drive-thru ceremony — in accordance with the COVID-19 pandemic — last weekend. That same day, the school unveiled a film compiled over a three-day span where the students walked Drolette Stadium in small groups, practicing social distancing.
As the country continues to mourn in anger over the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, activists and protesters have taken to the streets to call for justice and accountability for not only Floyd’s murder, but the countless other black and brown people that have been murdered by the police without repercussion or consequence.
While surrounding cities like Vallejo, Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco and others have experienced police violence toward protesters, Benicia thus far has experienced peace. As looting continues and curfew restrictions have been put in place county-wide, Benicia High School students organized a peaceful Youth Against Brutality Black Lives Matter march and protest on Sunday in honor of Floyd and the many other black people that have been killed at the hands of law enforcement or racists.
Benicians continue to step up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Teresa Van Woy, president of the Benicia Middle School band boosters was sad when the year was cut short and wanted to give back to the community and express herself creatively.
She has created a YouTube video for the band students and has taken over 80 individual portraits of graduating seniors and eight graders all around town to showcase Benicia’s beauty. All for free of course.
Susana Perez had just been announced as the Classified School Employee of the Year for the Dixon School District when it also was announced that she was the 2020-21 Solano County Classified School Employee of the Year as well.
Perez has been a paraprofessional and bilingual parent liaison for Maine Prairie High School for 18 years.
With the coronavirus outbreak changing education with distance learning, many school districts have made changes to their grading policies for the spring semester.
The Vallejo Unified School District announced last month that third-quarter grades will be used for final grades, unless those grades go up during the final semester. This is the same for Fairfield and West Contra Costa County, while the Dixon Board of Supervisors announced they adopted a pass/no pass policy.
Other counties going to a pass/no pass or credit/no credit policy include Napa, Santa Clara, Sonoma and San Mateo. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a credit/no credit policy (after initially adopting a policy that would have given all students “A’s.”
By Emma GoularteEvery student has different home lives and it is unrealistic to believe that all students will have the same opportunities as others. Some people live in different places and some have limited access to what they need. It is inequitable to expect that everyone has the same circumstances.
“Learning online has decreased my actual understanding of many school topics,” said Benicia High School (BHS) senior Jett Walker. “In order to fully comprehend topics to their full extents, I need to really get involved in person. Online schooling does offer this to a certain extent, but it lacks the actual ability of becoming fully engaged in certain topics.”
Most Vacaville area school district leaders say that — for the time being, at least — they are scheduled to reopen classrooms in mid-August, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday pronouncement about public schools restarting possibly in late July.
“We are paying close attention to Governor Newsom’s comments throughout this pandemic, and making sure we are working with our local partners to ensure we are prepared for any executive order or directive we need to follow,” Vacaville Unified Superintendent Jane Shamieh wrote Thursday in an email to The Reporter.
Shamieh, whose district includes more than 13,000 students enrolled at more than 15 campuses, made no additional comment about Newsom’s proposal, which is not set in stone and caught state schools chief Tony Thurmond by surprise.
Benicia High School’s staff has not seen its school’s seniors in person for weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean teachers and administrators have forgotten about them.
When a project was brought up to honor the students, it didn’t take long for all of them to “sign” off on it.
A drive-through event was held for Panther seniors as they picked up not only their caps and gowns but also a free sign they could put in their front yard acknowledging that they belong to the Class of 2020. A free lunch was also given as teachers, faculty and even some other students held up their own signs and offered congratulations.
Last week Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that schools will be physically closed until the end of the school year.
“While schools might be physically closed, class is still in session,” he said. “This agreement is good news for students and parents, and the announcement means that more Calif. kids will have tools to learn at home during this crisis.”
Distance learning was made possible for Benicia schools after the high school and middle school received chromebooks at the beginning of the year to ensure the 1:1 learning ratio. These devices make learning outside the classroom possible with multiple outlets that are being used to continue educating students.
School buses may be grounded, but schools remain rolling from home computers and it’s all about a team effort, said two Benicia school principals and a Solano County Board of Education trustee.
“These are unprecedented times to which we need to rise up and unite against this terrible disease,” said Christina Moore, principal at Robert Semple Elementary, adding that she’s “in awe of how teachers and staff, district personnel, parents and students are adjusting to distance learning.
”Moore described Semple’s teachers as “warriors.”
“When we received the call that we would be closing school, teachers jumped into action without batting an eye,” Moore said. “They logged every student into Google Classroom, fed them lunch, packed up their rooms, and sent their students home with all of their textbooks not knowing when we would see each other again.”