Vista de las Cruces School rolls out the red carpet for its reopening
Students at Vista de las Cruces School in Gaviota walked on a vinyl red carpet Monday as they returned to campus for the first time in a year.
At the entrance to the school, Dr. Lois Peterson, who doubles as principal and superintendent for the single-school district, greeted students and squirted hand sanitizer into their palms.
She wanted students to feel special as they walked into the school, so she and a few staff members taped down a red carpet entrance and decorated the school over the weekend.
Dr. Peterson sent a video to families Sunday night showing drone footage of the red carpet.
One parent wrote back, “The kids are so stoked. Kids are so excited. We’ll be lucky if they sleep tonight.”
Vista de las Cruces is open for a full schedule, and all its students enrolled for in-person learning (though some temporarily stayed on Zoom for personal reasons).
Two teachers elected to teach online until they receive their second dose of the vaccine, and the students were given the choice to stay home or return to campus while they wait. Both classes returned to campus Monday.
“I gotta give it to the kids for how they’ve endured during this time.,” Dr. Peterson told the News-Press. “And they had no fear.
“At the same time, I give so much credit to the parents because not only did they have to sacrifice and work around their job schedules, everyone kept the child as the center of the focus.”
The whole school participated in daily assemblies on Zoom the past year, beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.
At the beginning of the school day Monday, the fifth-grade students raised the flags in person. All students gathered around on marked spots, and parents watched from a distance.
“That special flag ceremony was led by a class of students,” Dr. Peterson said. “It gives them that ownership and that responsibility but at the same time just makes the school feel like their own school.”
Dr. Peterson aims to make the school feel like a family. With just under 30 students, she finds unique ways to connect the students and their families.
She called each household when the county and state public health departments approved the school’s reopening. She worked until 8 or 9 p.m. that night informing families and answering questions.
“Today was made possible by people keeping the vision alive,” she said Monday. “And our vision for our school is that we are one family as we learn and grow together.”
The parent organization, Vista Volunteers, assembled bags for each student with masks, hand sanitizer and fresh bagels.
Students adapted to health and safety precautions quickly. Each classroom has a hand-washing station, plexiglass around each desk and spots on the ground marked for physical distancing.
“It’s natural for them. They just really want to do the right thing and do it well, and they help each other, Dr Peterson said. “They’re very supportive of one another.”
She watched older siblings help the younger brothers and sisters enter their classrooms with smiles on their faces.
She joined each Zoom class Friday to explain the reopening process to students and give them motivation. The kids danced to music she played to get them excited, but the students would’ve felt joyful without the music.
“You’re unlocking so much potential in these kids by just making them feel safe — and give them space to do it,” Dr. Peterson said.
The students requested to continue their daily meetings as a school, just like they had been doing through Zoom.