Weekly roundup: Tustin USD teacher creates unique reading experience; vaccines for educators; and more

An elementary teacher in the Tustin Unified School District has turned a simple walk around campus into a fun, interactive — and educational — activity for the whole family.

Last year, when the pandemic forced students and staff to move to distance learning, Jesse Holmes, a fourth-grade teacher at Hicks Canyon Elementary School in Irvine, came up with the idea for the “Storybook Walk.”

Book walk

Holmes recently told the Orange County Register that the main goal of the storybook walk was to get children off of their iPads and outdoors while promoting social distancing.

Set up along a pathway in front of the school, the Storybook Walk features pages and illustrations from an entire book spaced out on walls and fences on the school’s campus. Students start at one end of the path, read a page aloud and continue along the walkway until the entire book is read.

“I wanted to see families spending time together while also being educational. It’s been a huge hit with our community and school,” said Holmes. “Students love walking to and from campus reading a good book.”

Holmes said that funding for the idea came from a Donors Choose grant she wrote in August 2020. It was recently fully funded by the Gates Foundation and anonymous donors. As part of the grant, she received a total of five books with the intent to rotate every two months with a new book.

All books promote social emotional learning, diversity and inclusion.

“Our first book was ‘Good Morning, Yoga,’ which promoted yoga moves, stretches and mindfulness, and our current book is ‘The Bad Seed,’” Holmes said.

“I hope to continue this tradition even after the pandemic and increase our storybook library with other diverse reads.”

And here are some other top stories we are following this week.

  • In related news, thousands of California teachers who had been waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations finally began receiving their first doses last week, with those numbers expected to climb as the state takes additional steps to prioritize teachers.
  • The Laguna Beach Unified School District is planning to reopen its secondary school campuses for in-person classes on March 17, pending official notice that Orange County has entered the red tier in the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system.
  • Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner plans to open elementary campuses in the nation’s second-largest school district by April 9, if vaccines are prioritized for school employees.
  • The Biden administration confirmed this week that states must resume their annual standardized tests this spring. While the tests will be required, the U.S. Department of Education is allowing for new flexible options such as shortening tests, extending the testing window and remote administration.
  • The Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education is set to vote on whether or not to offer an ethnic studies course for 11th-and 12th-graders. High schools in Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irvine, Garden Grove and Laguna Beach already offer ethnic studies classes, the Voice of OC reports.
  • County Superintendent Al Mijares hosted a special virtual seminar in celebration of Black History Month. The event featured local voices from across the county who shared experiences and provided advice and strategies for ensuring equity, opportunity and inclusion for African American students.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.