Friday, Mar. 13 marked the last day students would attend Dana Hills’ campus until May 4 (at the earliest). The original Apr. 13 date of return was recently changed after the Capistrano Unified Board of Trustees’ meeting on Mar. 25, where the district voted to continue Distance Learning through Friday, May 1. This date is subject to further change as officials learn more about the pandemic.
Dana Hills students have now finished their first week of distance learning, with at least five more remaining but possibly more. The space forced between each member of our community has undoubtedly caused hardship, but Principal Dr. Baker has decided to share hope rather than distress.
Future of School Events
In regards to events originally planned for the next couple months, Dr. Baker states “it’s good to say [they are] postponed until further notice.” Once gathering is again possible, he assures those anticipating such moments that he is going to “do everything in [his] power to have them […] but again, everything is on a case by case basis.”
Faculty are Excelling
”[Staff] did an amazing job at being flexible and patient.”
Dana’s principal is particularly proud of his staff: he reports that all “did an amazing job at being flexible and patient.” This was a difficult task with so much of the information just “trickling in,” drenched in uncertainty.
Baker tries to make his appreciation known for his faculty and administration teams as much as possible “because change is always hard, and our teachers and staff are doing an amazing job with it.” Dr. Baker is also pleased to announce that our “staff has done a really good job of staying home to fight the curve.” Nearly all are working from home, with only a necessary “skeletal crew of the least amount of employees possible” on campus.
The students of Dana Hills were given their spring break the week of Mar. 15 to Mar. 21, directly after the cancellation of further instruction on campus for the foreseeable future. During this time, teachers were working to set up at home offices, finding technological resources to use during distance learning, learning how to use these and planning the next month to ensure student success in spite of the problematic conditions.
Enrichment Week: Teachers will be providing optional resources for enrichment of students to use to support their learning. There will be no required assignments for students to complete during the week
Thus, the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) decided that teachers and administrative faculty members will enjoy their spring break during the originally scheduled dates of Apr. 5 to Apr. 11. For students, this means breaking up “distance learning” with an “enrichment week,” the difference between the two being teacher interaction. As opposed to the back and forth communication between students and teachers during the weeks of distance learning, teachers will have content posted, but no additional involvement from them will occur during enrichment week.
The Senior Class
Often, the senior class has been on Baker’s mind. It being his first year as Dana’s principal, Baker expresses, “I am really looking forward to graduation with [the seniors]. I cannot wait to be on that field with you and I know it’s going to happen. I want it to happen. I think it’s going to be a special moment for us and everything in my power will go to recognizing the accomplishments, contributions, and the time spent together.”
“As a school, we need to be flexible and patients because there are a lot of unknowns and we may need to adapt”
Baker has decided, upon return to school, that will be his highest priority. Reminiscing, Baker thinks of his final high school year and knows “there were a lot of fun things at the end,” and states to the seniors, “I do not want you to miss that.” Accompanying all new information, Dr. Baker stresses that “as a school we need to be flexible and patient because there are a lot of unknowns and we may need to adapt” at any given time.
Dr. Baker’s Quarantine
Still working from school, Dr. Baker has not experienced quarantine to the same degree as most in our community. However, his family has, and the days that Baker was at home were characteristically lighthearted. When home, Baker has been shooting hoops in the front yard, teaching his son to cook burgers and spending lots of time with the family’s golden retriever, Murphy, who loves the sudden increase in attention he is receiving. The family has been going on lots of walks and sometimes joins their neighborhood in “sitting in the front yard or driveway in the evening to interact that way.”
Baker humorously reports that his eighth grade son has built a gym in their garage in his efforts to “get buff and strong.” Equally motivated, his daughter loves school, so she has spent most of her time creating a “really cool space for [studying].” Dr. Baker and his wife, a former preschool director, worked with their kids to “develop a plan about when is a good time to wake up, go on a walk, do chores, do homework, etcetera.” Baker recommends having some routine to everyone, incorporating learning, chores, fun and connecting into every day.
Dr. Baker’s children “were nervous [about the quarantine] at first, but with a little more structure, they’re liking it.” He admits, they have “definitely been watching Netflix,” but also that there is no binge watching television because “that can get depressing. Having little goals everyday really helps us.”
“I love seeing people staying connected and reinforcing positivity”
In order to stay connected while social distancing, Baker advises people to continue “sharing the love, like we always say here, just at a distance for right now.” He believes “just giving people hope and having positive conversations” can go a long way.
Social media has been a great stage for this, Baker has noticed. He particularly loves what our Associated Student Union (ASU) and other programs are doing on Instagram: “I love seeing people staying connected and reinforcing positivity. I love seeing the memory challenge of posting good moments on campus […] Doing their part to help with this is a huge service and example.”
Of the students and staff, Dr. Baker says he “has never been so proud.” He would like to share the John Wooden quote, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” During this period, Baker urges people to look outside the box for what we can do to better ourselves. Baker points out how “powerful” it has been to watch the collaboration between Dana’s staff, as they become more interdependent to do greater work.
The students too have elicited awe from Baker, showing their positivity, hope and fun any way they can. He calls this “a great moment for this generation to take the lead and be socially responsible because as hard as it is, this is our war to fight and we need to fight it by following the regulations put in place to reduce the curve. We’re saving lives by doing that.”
”[Now is] a great moment for this generation to take the lead and be socially responsible because as hard as it is, this is our war to fight and we need to fight it by following the regulations put in place to reduce the curve. We’re saving lives by doing that”
Being a spectator of this has brought Dr. Baker excitement because in our daily lives such positivity doesn’t seem to be the default. Baker thinks situations such as this “pull out who we really are.” It is important, Baker believes, to remember that many people are doing the right thing. Focusing on the negative is so easy, especially now, but he has seen only optimism within the Dana Hills community.
He believes that it is important to remember that “you might see a car crash on the news, but there are 20 people coming to help […] Everyone should be watching the heroes, who is out there doing great work, being positive and helping. I think true leadership is being positive in a negative situation. My advice is just look for it, it’s out there.”
For the principal, one major source of light is anticipation for the day everyone returns to campus. At the end of this distance, Baker hopes we will be familiar with amazing new technological skills and tools that we can bring back. In addition to face-to-face learning, he desires to see the school use these tools to make us that much better communicators and learners, “so [he is] excited for that.”
He sees that “when we’re all on the other side of this, we’re all going to be more appreciative of each other, our ability to come to school, our families and home, our freedom.” Baker wants people to think about the end goal, the “beautiful day” we get back together and back in school. Dr. Baker’s final words of advice are simply, “Everyday be hopeful and we got this.”
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