CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV)-- The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, flew from Sacramento to visit two elementary schools in Chula Vista Thursday. Thurmond praised the schools' whole-hearted approach to returning to in-person learning.
Students, staff, even the principal at Chula Vista's Castle Park Elementary were on their best behavior Thursday morning as they welcomed the State Superintendent of schools, Tony Thurmond.
"I've never seen students and staff happier to be back at school," Castle Park Elementary School Principal Monica Castillo said.
Despite being in one of the pandemic's hardest-hit areas in the region, students at Castle Park Elementary returned to in-person learning in April, following rigorous safety protocols for both physical and mental health.
"We also provide a safe place in the classroom for kids to give them that sense of belonging, to give them a place to express their feelings," Castillo said.
Aside from academic learning loss, many students in this area have experienced illness and the loss of family members. That is why they begin every day with a mindfulness exercise.
"That way they can prepare for learning and also be in the right mindset for being back in school, and being back with each other," Elizabeth Gianulis, Director of Multi-tiered system of supports at the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said.
Thurmond participated in the exercise and saw its effects on the children.
"What I have observed here today is what I think California and quite frankly, our nation needs in terms of how we help our students come back for in-person instruction," Thurmond said.
Thurmond said he is working with the Governor and legislators to allocate an additional $3 billion on state mental health programs for anyone under 25. He believed caring for the overall health of California students will make for a smoother transition into fall.
"What we must pay close attention to is their well-being. Students have been disconnected, and that's not how we are meant to live as human beings," Thurmond said.
Following his tour of Castle Park Elementary, Thurmond visited Joseph Casillas Elementary School.
Thurmond is also working with education leaders now on a plan to allow some structured remote learning in the summer and fall for families who are not quite ready to return to in-person instruction.