School District Addresses COVID-19, Career and Technical Education Programs

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Clockwise from top left: San Dimas High School teacher Jessica Truax, Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Anne Neal, Superintendent Carl Coles, and Bonita High School teacher Laurie Brandler updated community members on the district’s efforts to tackle COVID-19 and encourage Career and Technical Education programs during the State of the District virtual event. Photo: Screenshot taken from YouTube.

By Joshua Bay

Bonita Unified School District Superintendent Carl Coles updated parents and community members on the district’s efforts to reopen elementary schools.

The State of the District was hosted Thursday, March 4, during a virtual event hosted by the La Verne and San Dimas Chambers of Commerce to highlight local Career and Technical Education programs.

Coles began by outlining key efforts made by BUSD to address immediate distance learning needs from last year’s COVID-19 school closures.

“By August, every student that was in need of a Chromebook received one,” Coles said. “And by the end of September, we handed out hundreds and hundreds of hotspots for families that did not have internet service.”

Coles also mentioned additional support offered through online and in-person tutoring and childcare services.

“Since fall, we have had hundreds of students on campus after their distance learning to get that support that they were going to need,” Coles said. “In addition to the face-to-face tutoring, we also purchased a 24 hours a day, seven days a week tutoring program called Paper.”

Coles continued with the district’s efforts to mitigate mental health issues stemming from the isolation caused by COVID-19 safety protocols and distance learning.

“About two years ago, our district committed about $1 million to fund eight mental health counselors to our staff,” Coles said. “You can imagine how helpful  that has become, and we can’t be more pleased with the support they are providing.”

Coles recognized the 1,100 BUSD employees for their flexibility transitioning to distance learning.

“The two words that describe our staff are skill and will,” Coles said. “Because they have the will to make it happen and they have the skill to back it up.”

Following the superintendent’s update, BUSD CTE instructors were invited to describe their roles in providing meaningful career readiness opportunities for the district’s high school students, despite distance learning challenges.

We have a lot of kids that would be much more successful, and now will be much more successful, because they’re going to learn their passion.

Alta Skinner, La Verne/San Dimas Educational Foundation Advisory Board Member

Bonita High School teacher Laurie Brandler provided insight on culinary programs offered.

“Students come in as freshman or sophomores, and they take our intro to food class, which gives them a basic foundation of the kitchen,” Brandler said. “And then for our juniors and seniors, we offer culinary and restaurant management.”

Brandler described efforts to help students succeed beyond the classroom and into the culinary industry.

“My goal for our students is to get a ServSafe Food Handler’s Certificate. They cannot get a job in the industry without it,” Brandler said. “So far this year we have been able to get about 140 students certified.”

San Dimas High School teacher Jessica Truax explained her role in bringing the healthcare industry to students as an athletic trainer.

“We are the people when there’s an injury on the field run out and do the emergency care, injury diagnosis and treatment of those injuries,” Truax said. “The students are getting an eye opening experience into this different healthcare field as opposed to the more traditional ones.”

Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Anne Neal explained the importance of offering both career and college preparation for high school students.

“A high quality CTE course means that it’s part of a sequence,” Neal said. “In other words, it’s not just a one-off course, but actually a series of courses that’s preparing kids to advance in this skill.”

BUSD high schools will be allowed to continue efforts in CTE since receiving a Career Technical Education Incentive Grant amounting to nearly $325,000.

The grant will provide BUSD the opportunity to update culinary rooms,  buy new video equipment and offer additional pathways for sports entertainment, medicine and child development.

La Verne/San Dimas Educational Foundation Advisory Board Member Alta Skinner commended BUSD for their efforts to teach students about trade careers.

“I wanted to thank Bonita Unified for getting past the old thought that everybody was going to a four year university,” Skinner said. “We have a lot of kids that would be much more successful, and now will be much more successful, because they’re going to learn their passion.”


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