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Principal's Corner/ Mensajes del Directora

March 19, 2020

Dear Highlands Community,

I hope this message finds you and your family well.  I wanted to connect with you should you have any concerns or questions during these unprecedented days.  The staff and I are in constant communication during their working hours. Those hours are 8 a.m – noon, and 1 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.  These hours are for all staff members at our school.  

Some parents are asking about Zoom, and other such sources to have teachers talk to their students in real time. Please remember that the teachers were only told about distance learning last Friday.  They did a heroic effort to put packets together for the next 12 days while we are all sheltering in place. They are not responsible for work over spring break, as everyone needs this time off, especially our teachers.  It is not part of their contract to work during breaks and boy, do they deserve some time off. On top of getting packets ready, 3 days early, they also needed to get report cards done almost 5 days early. They have been working hard to meet moving deadlines and they have succeeded.  On Tuesday, staff members passed out the packets to all families. All families were given packets.  That is a feat unto itself. Thank you to all of us who even delivered them to homes just to make sure our students were able to receive them.  I want to commend my staff for all that they have done in such a short time, with moving deadlines. They are amazing. Now, about real time applications in connecting with your students, do know that teachers are working from home.  Not everyone is connected to the Internet, and those that are, are paying for it out of their pockets. Not only that, but there is a learning curve for all of us in this new adventure. Teachers have not yet been taught formally on how to make all of this happen.  Many are learning on their own and have connected with students in that way. Others are doing what they can. Please be patient. Today is the official launch of packets, and you got them on Tuesday. Our teachers are available to answer your questions, but please remember they, too, have families to worry about during these times.  We are all doing what we can. Our hope is that when spring break is over, we will be able to return to normal. If not, more details will follow. Keep the faith.

Mrs. Gorman, one of our Reading Intervention Specialists, wanted me to add this information.  “As a resource for ALL Highlands families who would like help supporting their readers at home, please do! I can help them access appropriately leveled digital (or if necessary, snail mailed) materials for their readers at home. I can also be available to read individually with their students.  Happy to help!”  

In our new adventure of distance learning, there are a few things that might help you with your children for the following 12 days.  

  • Go over the work packets with your child.
  • Establish a plan for the schoolwork for the day.  
  • Let your child choose the order of the work to be done.  
  • Schedule who gets to use the computer and for how long.  With parents working online, students may have to work with parent schedules for time online.  If you have multiple children it becomes a bigger task.
  • For work that is more difficult, please have your child email their teacher.
    Emails are all pretty much the same with the exception of the first initial and last name.  The rest is standard. Example: Lana Fenech’s email is be   If you do not know your child’s teacher’s first initial or how to spell their last name, email me.  I will give it to you.
  • Teaching your child to reach out to their teacher is a skill of self-advocacy.  It is sometimes easier for a student to ask remotely. When the teacher responds, they will be so pleased that their voice is important and will get the help they need.  Please let them know that it may take a bit more time, as they are responding to many throughout the day. Again, our teaching staff’s hours are from 8 a.m.-noon and 1:00 to 3:15 p.m.
  • Keep all of the completed work in a box or drawer in a desk.  At this time, we are not sure about collecting things from students, but may have you verify that it was completed.  More to come on that note.
  • Structure PE/PMT time around the same time as they would have it at school.  This helps set a routine and gives comfort in the familiar. Do some of the exercises with them.  You are cooped up, too.
  • Snack and lunch.  We usually have snack recess at 10:20-10:40 for 1st-5th grades, and 10:50-11:10 for TK/K.  Lunch is at 12:10 p.m. for one hour.  This also includes free play for 30 minutes.
  • When the work is done for the day, have your child do a clean up routine. Tuck in chairs, put completed work in a box or drawer, put things back into their backpacks and straighten their work area for tomorrow.  


Some ideas for work if you end early.

  • Write a letter to a relative or friend.  FaceTime or call and read the letter to them.
  • Chat online or on the phone with a friend.  Students need to connect with their friends as they need to keep from feeling isolated.
  • Audio/Video record your child reading a story. Have them play it when they tuck in for the night.  The reading of the story works with fluency. Hearing it again works on comprehension. If they see themselves reading, they will be the stars of the broadcast and it could be something they send to friends and relatives.  Every night a new friend might be reading to them, too, if they share their video. This will take some coordination with parents, but is easy to do. Staying connected, working on reading, equals a win-win for all.
  • Plan on a family event once the shelter in place is lifted.  Have your child plan the special day and write it down for the family.  Let them make the schedule, plan the snacks, figure out the budget and who is going.  Let them know that the date will have to be adjusted pending what is going on. It would be very disappointing if they had a firm date and it didn’t happen.  Teach them the life skill of flexibility. Tell them that you, as parents will know when it is safe to participate in this fun event.
  • Go to “” and have your child earn grains of rice for third world nations with each correct answer.  This can be a goal set each day to earn more rice grains. This builds empathy for others, helps feed the world, and let’s your child choose a category to answer questions.
  • Plant something.  You may have a root bound plant that needs a new pot.  How about trying to grow an avocado? If you have seeds, it is always fun to watch them grow, measure their growth each day, and make a chart.  Lima beans seem to be an easy thing to grow quickly.
  • Have your child play teacher and teach you something that they feel is important to them.  It is fun to see what they want to share with you about their passions. When I did this with my sons many, many years ago, I learned more about Star Wars and Ninja Turtles than I ever thought I would.  The memory of the time together is cherished even still.
  • Write a diary.  We have never experienced “Shelter in Place.”  Recoding daily will create a memory. Let them be the primary source of this historic event. Older children may want to research pandemic or Covid-19.  Younger ones, may want to write how they feel about being in the house all day and night. Whatever their thoughts, it will be something they will remember going forward many years to come.
  • Start a gratitude journal.  It is so easy to think of what we do not enjoy or like, but it is a lot harder to think of things for which to be grateful.  I would limit it to 3 things per day. They do not have to be big things, being grateful for watching leaves flutter in the wind works.


I will be sending out on School Messenger on occasion.  I want to keep you informed about things as they happen.  The district is also sending you information. Please feel free to communicate with me if you have any concerns or comments.  Have fun together during the next few weeks. The bonding is special. When spring break is over, we hope that we will be able to go back to normal.  Until then, stay safe and stay well.

Lana Fenech
Highlands Elementary School

March 15, 2019

Dear Highlands Community,

Originally, we were to launch our distance learning on Thursday and Friday.  As is the way of the current world, our plans have changed.  Due to the Shelter in Place order, our timeline was moved up.  We are now passing out distance learning packets tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17th .  Moving forward, your child’s teacher will be communicating with you and you should feel free to reach out to him/her with questions, by email. Our teachers will be working from home.  

LAUNCH DATE:  Tuesday, March 17th, 9:00 a.m. to Noon

Launch day is the term we are using for families to come to Highlands and pick up student packets according to their grade level.


Packets will be distributed in a drive-through manner. This is to ensure the health and safety of you and our staff. Questions must be emailed to the teacher or office.  We will respond to your questions as soon as possible. Teachers will NOT be available during Launch Day. 

In order to keep our staff at a safe distance, we will be passing out packets in a drive by fashion.  Please stay in your cars and drive up to the following stops. 

TK/K and 1st grades please look for the signs on Yorktown Street
2nd and 3rd grades will be passed out on Newport Street
4th and 5th grades will be passed out on Bunker Hill
We appreciate your patience as we have many students.  We will try to pass the packets out as quickly as possible.  It will help if you tell us which teacher and your child’s full name when you stop.

Please follow these directions to pick up your student(s) packet(s). Please DO NOT get out of your car and approach the distribution stations.  The line of cars will most likely be long. Drive forward and we will have staff asking your grade level and student(s) name. Your packet will be handed to you. Once your packet is received, we ask that you quickly leave the area so we can continue with an efficient packet distribution. If you live nearby and will walk during this time, we ask that you keep a 6-foot physical distance and patiently wait for someone to assist you. 

LAUNCH DATE (distribution of packets)

All grades
Tuesday, March 17th     9:00-12:00 
It is very important that you read all district emails, as they are the main source of the latest information to assure clear and correct updates. Thank you for your support during this unprecedented time. Please stay well and know that we are all in this together.  Our teachers have rallied in such a short time to give your children the needed work.  They will be keeping in touch with all of you.  Hope to see everyone together again soon after Spring Break, if we are allowed.  Thank you for your flexibility, patience and understanding.  Together, we will get through it all.

Lana Fenech
Highlands Elementary School

March 16, 2020

Dear Highlands Community,

I hope that this message finds you and your family well.  Please know that at the time of this message, there are no known persons with infection in our school community.  We are all aware of the Covid-19 information we hear in the news. It changes by the minute. Our district sends information to all families regularly, but you may wonder what precautions we are taking at Highlands Elementary to protect our children and staff.  I hope to share this information with you.

  • Our school was sanitized and disinfected over the weekend.
  • We are keeping the campus closed to all but our staff members.  I know that this may present a problem for some who live near, but we are doing this in an abundance of caution to keep our campus as safe as possible.  Dogs are never allowed on our campus, but neighbors do not always obey the signs. If you see anyone on campus during this time, please let them know. The gates are closed and locked.
  • Our day and night custodians have attended training surrounding additional cleaning protocols with a hospital grade germicidal disinfectant.  They have heightened their cleaning routines and have added precautionary measures.
  • The district will be providing hand-sanitizing stations where water is not available around the campus, very soon.
  • Our teaching staff took an Integrated Pest Management online training in order to be able to use hospital-grade disinfectants, Clorox wipes, etc. in their classrooms.  Additional staff members are currently in the process of completing this training as well.
  • All field trips and events have been cancelled.
    Events include:
    • Annie Jr. play production and all rehearsals
    • Field Trips, including 4th grade Coloma overnight trip
    • Music for Minors Sharing Event
    • Walk-a-Jog
    • Parent Ed evening and morning sessions
    • PTA meetings
    • Science Family Fun Night
  • And all other events as well.
  • All facilities use agreements have been cancelled at Highlands.  (Meetings, Scouts, play practices, etc.)
  • Library and computer labs are closed.
  • We have been told by First Student, our bus company, that they, too, have stepped up cleaning protocols for when the students come back.
  • We appreciate and value the work that our parent volunteers play at our school, but at this time, no additional people are allowed on campus.  Please do not ask to come on campus, as we will have to tell you no. Please understand that this is being done to protect our students and we know that this is a temporary situation. Please understand that we are being hyper-vigilant.  Thank you for your understanding and support.  
  • All are instructed in proper handwashing and encouraged to do so throughout the day.
    As you can see, we are working to keep your children safe at Highlands Elementary School upon their return, when it is deemed the right time to come back to school, by the district.  

Many parents have asked how they can help.  If you are willing, please donate hand sanitizers, Clorox/Lysol wipes and sprays, face masks to cover those in the clinic from spreading germs to others, plastic hand gloves, paper towels, antibacterial wet wipes, and boxes of tissue.  Please bring these donations to the office where the office staff will share them. A sincere thank you for all of your help.

Our teachers are working to create distance learning work for your children.  Teachers met with me last Friday. They will be putting together work on Monday, March 16th, through Wednesday, March 18th.  On Thursday, March 19th, we will launch distance learning.  Please know that I will message that information out to you later this week as we work out the logistics. Please expect an email on Wednesday with information about how to access work for your children.

More than anything please support our hard-working teachers and staff.  It is a difficult time for all as we delve into unchartered territory. Things can change in a very short time, so I will do my best to keep you informed.  Feel free to email or call should you need more information or clarification. Together, with your support and understanding, we will best protect our children and help them stay healthy.  Please stay safe and healthy. Together, the Highlands Community is strong.

Very Sincerely,
Lana Fenech

Principal’s Message - March 2020

Dear Parents,

I would like to share with you that we now have a new Administrative Assistant, Anthony Barnhill.  He started on March 2, and is looking forward to getting to know our Highlands community better. Please feel free to stop by and say, “Hi.”  I know that you will enjoy getting to know him. Thank you to Christine Zamora for holding down the fort in the office for the last two months.  It has been a huge job to run both desks, and she did it amazingly well. Our office is now back up and running, full force. Christine and Anthony are a solid team to take care of all of our office needs.  We are so lucky to have them with us.

I want to connect with you about the recent cases that you have been hearing about in the news, regarding the Covid-19 virus.  The district has sent important information to you. They will continue to do so as needed. I appreciate parents keeping their students home when they appear under the weather.  At school, students will be sent home if they run a temperature or appear to be at all ill. Please understand that we are taking these precautions for the sake of all of our students and staff, at Highlands.  If your child runs a fever, please keep them home for 24 hours after their fever has gone, without the aid of any medication, such as Tylenol or Advil, etc. You can also help us by teaching your children to wash their hands regularly with soap and water.  The rule of thumb is to wash hands long enough by singing either “Happy Birthday” or the “ABC Song”, twice. Hand sanitizer is also another method when water and soap are not available. We are doing all that we can to clean and disinfect our school in all areas where students were ill.  Our custodial crew has attended meetings about proper disinfecting procedures at school. We are all doing our part to prevent the spread of any germs here at Highlands. Thank you for your support with this, as well.

During our rainy days, please know that the 4th and 5th grade wing is not open to students until 7:45 a.m., and our TK-3rd grade classrooms are not open until 8:05 a.m.  Since students are not allowed on campus prior to 7:45 a.m., please know that there is no supervision until that time.  For our TK-3rd graders, they may go to the LGI from 7:45 a.m. to 8:05 a.m.  At 8:05 a.m., they will go to their classrooms. Please know that on non-rainy days, the library is also open for students to quietly read at 7:45 a.m.

As we “Spring Forward” this weekend with the time change, please remember to set your clocks appropriately for Monday.  This year has flown by so quickly. Before we know it, it will be time to promote our 5th graders, plans are already underway.


Lana Fenech
Highlands Elementary School

Mensaje de la Directora - Marzo 2020

Queridos Padres,

Quisiera compartir con Uds. que ahora tenemos un Asistente Administrativo nuevo, Anthony Barnhill.  Él empezó en marzo 2, y espera con interés a llegar a conocer mejor nuestra comunidad de Highlands. Por favor no tengan duda en visitar y decirle “Hi.”  Yo sé que van a disfrutar llegar a conocerlo. Gracias a Christine Zamora por encargarse de nuestra oficina durante los últimos dos meses. Ha sido un gran trabajo manejar los dos trabajos, y ella ha hecho un trabajo asombroso. Ahora nuestra oficina está operando en plena vigencia.   Christine y Anthony son un equipo sólido para atender a nuestras necesidades de oficina. Estamos dichosos de tenerlos con nosotros.

Quiero conectar con Uds. acerca de los casos recientes de cuales Uds. han oído en las noticias tocante el viro Covid-19.  El distrito les ha envidado información importante a Uds. Continuarán a hacerlo según sea necesario. Yo agradezco que los padres mantengan a los niños en el hogar cuando estén enfermos. En la escuela, los estudiantes se mandarán al hogar si tienen fiebre o parecen enfermos. Por favor entienda que estamos tomando estas precauciones por el bien de nuestros estudiantes y personal en Highlands. Si su niño tiene una fiebre, por favor manténgalo en el hogar por 24 horas después que la fiebre ha desaparecido, sin ayuda de medicamentos, tal como Tylenol o Advil, etc.  Uds. nos pueden ayudar a través de ensenarle a sus niños que se laven las manos regularmente con agua y jabón. La regla general es lavarse las manos el tiempo suficiente para cantar “Feliz Cumpleaños (Happy Birthday)” o la canción del abecedario dos veces. El desinfectante de mano es otro método cuando agua y jabón no están disponibles. Estamos haciendo todo lo que podemos para limpiar y desinfectar nuestra escuela en todas las áreas donde estudiantes estuvieron enfermos. Nuestro equipo custodio ha asistido a reuniones acerca de procedimientos apropiados de desinfectar en la escuela. Todos estamos haciendo nuestra parte para prevenir propagación de gérmenes aquí en Highlands. Gracias por su apoyo, también. 

Durante nuestros días lluviosos, por favor sepan que el pasillo oeste de 4º y 5º grado no está abierto para estudiantes hasta las 7:45 a.m., y nuestras aulas de TK-3er grado no abren hasta las 8:05 a.m.  Debido a que no se permiten estudiantes en el campus hasta después de las 7:45 a.m., por favor sepan que no hay supervisión durante hasta esa hora. Para nuestros estudiantes de TK-3er grado, ellos pueden ir al LGI desde 7:45 a.m. hasta 8:05 a.m.  A las 8:05 a.m., ellos tienen que ir a sus aulas. Por favor sepan que días no lluviosos, la biblioteca también está abierta para el estudiante leer calladamente hasta las 7:45 a.m.

Así que “Saltamos Hacia La Primavera” este fin de semana con el cambio de hora, por favor recuerden programar sus relojes apropiadamente para el lunes. Este año ha volado tan rápido. Antes de que nos demos cuenta, será tiempo para promocionar nuestros estudiantes de 5º grado, los planes ya están en proceso.

Lana Fenech
Escuela Primaria Highlands