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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

School opens to wide eyes and happy faces

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

It took some time to track down sixth-year Oakmont Elementary School Principal Jennifer Adams on Monday morning.

 

She was in constant motion, waving to passing cars, greeting students and families, and answering last-minute questions from a small army of school employees as they ticked down the final moments before the campus opened for the first time in more than a year.

 

The vibe out on the sidewalk was a little like the pent up excitement of waiting on a theme park to open its gates. Surprisingly not exhausted looking parents lined up with their visibly eager kids as they were admitted one group at-a-time as to maintain social distance.

 

The school was decorated with balloons and welcome back signage, and students got Oakmont Owl swag bags, which included a book called “When You Begin.”

 

I finally chased down Ms. Adams as she was making her first schoolwide announcement in more than a year over Oakmont’s PA system, letting everyone know that it was finally happening.

 

She turned, and understandably looked a bit startled to see the COURIER standing in her office. I could see she had much more pressing concerns than talking to me, as the campus was opening in minutes.

I asked if she was nervous.

 

“No, I’m not nervous. I’m really not nervous at all. I’m very excited and can’t wait to see our students again,” Ms. Adams said.

Brushing aside my patronizing question, she went on to praise the people who helped ready to the school for opening, and the teachers, students and families who came together to create a distance learning environment from scratch when Claremont Unified School District shut down March 13, 2020.

 

“We just really appreciated them over the past year,” she said. “They’ve just been unbelievable partners in education with us, and we’re just super excited to welcome them back with open arms, and so excited to see them this morning.”

 

Ms. Adams took a quick moment to reflect just prior to cutting the ribbon on Oakmont’s 2020-2021 in-person school year.  

“When I said goodbye to our students I remember saying I’d see them after spring break,” Ms. Adams said. “I didn’t realize it wouldn’t be until after the following spring break, in 2021, when I welcomed them back.”

 

A total of 244 Oakmont students returned to campus on Monday, with 32 pupils remaining in online, distance-learning classrooms.

 

Students were also back on campuses at Claremont’s other elementary schools: Chaparral, Condit, Mountain View, Sumner-Danbury, Sycamore and Vista del Valle.

 

Claremont’s three secondary schools, El Roble Intermediate, San Antonio and Claremont high schools open their doors next Monday, April 19.

 

Down the road from Oakmont at Vista, ebullient third-year Principal Janie Nuanes was just as busy.

“It’s so wonderful to see all of the students,” Ms. Nuanes said as she hoofed it between her multitude of opening morning duties. “Everyone is excited to be back and everything worked very smoothly. Students felt prepared. We’re just excited to get the kids back in class.”

 

She said the majority of Vista’s 327 kindergarten through sixth grade students opted to return to on-campus learning. Like many Claremont campuses, Vista used the COVID-related downtime to complete some schoolwide upgrades.

 

“We’re really excited now because we now have our Apple TVs and our technology systems that have been installed in our classrooms,” Ms. Nuanes said. “And we have a brand new marquee, and blinds that were put up as well.”

 

As was the case with her colleague Ms. Adams over at Oakmont, she had nothing but praise for how her Vista community came together throughout the pandemic.

“The teachers and the students worked really hard remotely just to kind of keep up with academics and continue moving forward all this time,” she said.

 

Admittedly, Vista hasn’t had as much COURIER coverage as some of CUSD’s other, higher profile, larger Claremont elementary schools. Told that I’d like to help rectify this unintentional slight, Ms. Nuanes said, “We’ve really had a lot of accolades. We would really appreciate that.”

 

In 2018 and 2020 Vista was recognized as a California Distinguished School; it also won a 2019 and 2020 Los Angeles County Top School’s Award and a 2020 PBIS Community Cares Award; was named as a 2019 PBIS Gold School; and received a 2019-2020 CBEE Honor Roll Award.

 

“We really want to get how wonderful our school is out there,” Ms. Nuanes said.

With that mic drop moment, Ms. Nuanes excused herself to help another happy family navigate through the school’s gates.

 

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