10/7/2013 – Monthly Message

Oct 7, 2013 by

10/7/2013 – Monthly Message

Principal Bloom’s Monthly Message

Dear MES families,

Happy October!  We are into our second month of the new school year and we are happy to report that everyone seems to be enjoying our new campus. Here are some updates about what’s going on at Montclair Elementary School.



Here’s something we can all cheer about: The pencil-and-paper, multiple-choice STAR tests are gone, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. They will be replaced in 2014/2015 with new language arts and math tests taken on computers. The new assessments, called Measurement of Academic Progress and Performance, are designed to follow the new Common Core standards we are adopting.



Make sure you don’t miss the social and community-building event of the season! The Otter Walk is THE biggest deal of the fall — an all-day celebration of food, fun, and families that raises critical funds for our school. Don’t let your child miss out; it’s what his or her friends will be talking about for weeks afterward. The date is Saturday, October 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. New parents: make sure you and your kids both wear comfortable shoes, and bring a water bottle and sunscreen. And we always need volunteers! It’s a great way to give back to the school, get to know other parents, and show your kids that they and their school are priorities to you. To get involved, please email otterwalk-chairs@montclairschool.com.



Mark your calendars: We’ll be hosting our annual Halloween Parade on Thursday, October 31 at 2 p.m. Parents are invited and encouraged attend and watch your little ghosts and goblins show off their finery to the whole school. Please send your child to school with a costume that doesn’t require teacher or parent intervention to put on! Kids will change into their costumes before the parade. (We encourage saving the complicated costumes for trick-or-treating that evening.) As always, swords and weapons — even plastic or foam ones — must remain at home.



Okay, it’s not THAT bad…but our parking situation certainly has been challenging. There are some changes coming that will help make things easier (see below), but let’s recap a few guidelines first:




• Pull all the way forward when dropping off, both in the lot and in the drop-off zone on Mountain.

• Drive around the full perimeter of the lot when exiting (through the rear parking area where the basketball courts are).

• Leave a lane free for exiting traffic in the rear parking area.

• Clear the rear lot by 8:45 — it’s used as a playground during the school day.

• Use alternatives when the lot is full. You can park at Lucky’s (on the roof) or on Moraga Ave. by the park instead.



• Park along any curb. We are in violation of fire codes anytime a car is parked on a curb area!

• Park inconsiderately. This means don’t double park, park sideways, or block in another car.

And a final word of warning: several cars have already been towed. Retrieving a towed vehicle is both expensive and time-consuming — they are towed to San Leandro and the minimum charge to release the vehicle is $265. To avoid the headaches, please park with courtesy and consideration.


Now for some good news:


• We will be re-striping the lot to mark out additional spaces.

• We will be adding two carpool spots (“carpool” means driving you child or children plus one or more children other than your own).

• The large construction container in the rear lot has been removed, freeing up more space during drop-off and pick-up.

• We’ve received permission to adapt the area adjacent to the tennis courts to create staff parking spots — this will free up space in the main lot.

• We will be installing lights for safety.


The final construction tasks are getting under way, and we’re happy to announce that a favorite kid feature is back in place: the ball wall! It’s located next to the portables in the upper playground.



We’re updating our ball (and toy) policy. Children may bring balls and toys from home for use on the playground only before school, after school, and during recess — this is a change from our policy last year. Here are our guidelines:


• All items must be labeled with your child’s first and last name.

• Bring items at your own risk! We will not replace lost, stolen, popped, broken, over-the-fence, or on-the-roof items.

• Your child must be willing to share when playing with the items.

• When items aren’t in use they be kept in a backpack.

• Items that are not allowed include hard balls (tennis balls, baseballs, lacrosse balls); bats, sticks, or racquets; wheeled items (skateboards, scooters, roller skates).


It’s come to our attention that the drinking fountains in the new building are inconveniently located in areas where kids aren’t allowed unsupervised. To ensure that your child has easy access to water during lunch periods, we will be installing Otter Water stations with pitchers of water. However, please note we will NOT be providing cups. We encourage you to have your child bring a reusable water bottle or cup to school each day. In addition, we suggest reminding your child to refill his water bottle from a classroom sink before recess. We’ll also be installing a new water fountain in a more accessible area.



Here’s the latest on our kitchen, breakfast, lunch, and our party-food policy.


What’s cooking in the kitchen?

Unfortunately, not much (yet). We’d hoped our new cooking kitchen would be open in early October but it’s not quite ready yet, and unfortunately don’t have a set target date yet. We will keep you posted!


Breakfast update

We are pleased to report that our school breakfast program is running smoothly, and all kids are receiving a free, balanced breakfast at the start of the school day. We’ll be adding hot items to the menu as soon as our cooking kitchen is up and running. In the meantime, a selection of fruits, muffins, and other options will continue to be available. We’d also like to reassure parents that all our selections either meet or beat federal guidelines for sugar, fat, and calories, so you can feel good about your child having breakfast at school.


Lunch recommendations

Please pack your child’s lunch with an eye toward how well it supports him or her during a busy school day. Choose healthful items that provide solid nutrition. Try to include fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins and please don’t include highly processed foods, chips, candy, etc. Pretzels and grapes are a better choice than potato chips and cookies. If you are having trouble finding affordable but healthy choices, or don’t have the time to pack a balanced lunch each day, consider taking part in our school lunch program instead.


School lunch forms

Whether or not you qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch, we ask that every family fill out an application. Every submission impacts our federal funding. You may submit a form online at https://mealapps.ousd.k12.ca.us/, or, if you’d prefer not to disclose your family’s salary you can fill out a paper form (available in the office).


Party food

Halloween is approaching, fast followed by the holiday season, and that means we’ll be seeing plenty of classroom parties. Again, a reminder that we’d like to focus on healthy options here. A child saturated in sugar doesn’t learn well! Mini muffins, fruit kebabs, yogurt parfaits, chocolate-dipped strawberries or pretzels, trail mix, granola bars, or squeezable yogurt are great options. And for Halloween, check out these spooky but spectacular ideas: http://www.pinterest.com/healthykids/kids-healthy-halloween/ (we love the strawberry ghosts and the “boo-nana” pops).



Yes, it’s that time again — when the sniffles start and the crawlies come out. Fall is cold and flu season, so remind your kids to wash their hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, and avoid sharing water bottles. We’ve also received a couple of reports of scabies, an itchy skin infection caused by mites. Along with lice and pinworms, these critters unfortunately commonly plague elementary schools. To reduce your child’s risk of bringing home unwanted hitchhikers:


• Avoid contact with anyone who has been infected.

• Don’t share clothing, hats, hair accessories, or brushes.

• Remind your child to place hats, scarves, gloves, etc. into a backpack when they’re not in use.

• And a quick reminder: scabies, lice, and pinworms are equal-opportunity offenders; infestation isn’t related to cleanliness, home conditions, nutrition, or other factors.


As you can see, October is a busy month! As a result, we’ve decided to shift our Heritage Day celebration to the early spring. We’re decoupling it from United Nations Day on October 24 and planning a celebration for February instead — stay tuned for more details.



As always, Nancy Bloom maintains an open-door policy and welcomes questions or feedback. Please also feel free to contact PTA Board members (listed below), or the Communications Committee (Lauren Disston, laurendisston@yahoo.com; CC Holland, cc_holland@yahoo.com; Melissa Raymond, pta-president@montclairelementaryschool.org; and Libbi Ziegler, libbidale@gmail.com) with questions or comments.




CC Holland

(on behalf of Nancy Bloom and the Communications Committee)