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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #21-39
May 13, 2021
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Visits San Diego County Schools Open for In-Person Learning that Utilize Strong Safety Measures and Social-Emotional Supports

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond raised his hand and joined elementary students for class today on two campuses in San Diego County that have stayed open for safe, in-person learning by implementing comprehensive safety measures and offering wide-ranging, whole-child supports for students and families.

State Superintendent Thurmond visited Castle Park Elementary and Joseph Casillas Elementary, both located in Chula Vista, an area among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The schools are two out of 49 schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD), which serves nearly 30,000 students, with 68 percent identified as Hispanic and 36 percent as English learners. CVESD is the largest transitional kindergarten through sixth grade school district in California and is approximately five miles from the border of Mexico.

“These schools are a model for the state and nation in how we support students while recovering from this pandemic and preparing for a full return to in-person learning,” Thurmond said. “Through inspiring investments in school-based mental health support, comprehensive safety measures such as rapid COVID testing, and engaging instruction individualized to student needs, families should feel confident that schools like these are the safest, best places for their children.”

Throughout the day, Thurmond witnessed examples of whole-child support, with layers of physical safety measures combined with onsite mental health support, learning acceleration, and proactive family engagement strategies put in place to serve students and families. In addition, Thurmond learned about CVESD’s series developed for parents to provide ways to support their children’s social-emotional wellness at home as well as resources to enhance classroom practices, such as restorative circles, social-emotional lessons, and mindfulness.

CVESD has 53 school psychologists who support district schools, including charter schools. Every site has access to a school psychologist. In addition, as part of its reopening plans, CVESD is funding part-time mental health support professionals at each of its 41 non-charter school sites from April 12 to June 15, 2021. Highlights include:

  • A minimum of two days of counseling support will be provided at each of the non-charter district schools.
  • Key support responsibilities: High visibility at ingress/egress, readily available for crisis intervention (triage), 1:1 counseling.
  • Site-based social workers/counselors will provide support at 11 sites.
  • District social workers will provide support at nine sites.
  • Partner organization South Bay Community Services (SBCS) will provide mental health support providers at the remaining 21 sites.
  • SBCS’s Community Assessment Team will provide an additional one to two days of case management support to CVESD’s 10 highest unduplicated student sites to connect families with case management and wraparound services (e.g., family counseling, outside therapy, etc.).

CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D., said it is more important than ever to attend to students’ social and emotional needs.

“We believe in educating the whole child through rigorous academic instruction but also with behavioral and social-emotional learning and support,” Dr. Escobedo said. “It was amazing to share with the State Superintendent how our schools are implementing safety measures, dealing with learning loss, dealing with the trauma that our students experienced—and how we are mitigating the effects. We are deploying what we call a strengths-based focus on trauma, where our counselors, social workers, principals, and teachers are utilizing social-emotional constructs, teaching emotional self-regulation, to empower students and parents to overcome the rigors and challenges they had to go through during the pandemic.”

Among the safety measures implemented by the district, CVESD is one of 79 school districts in California that are now offering free rapid antigen testing that can provide COVID-19 test results in as little as 15 minutes. This antigen testing, made available because of a partnership with the County of San Diego, the State of California, and Primary Health and facilitated by Thurmond and the California Department of Education, is available to all staff and students throughout the school district. In addition, CVESD is hosting family vaccination clinics on a weekly basis.

School districts that are interested in enrolling in the state’s rapid antigen testing program are asked to complete this no-commitment interest form External link opens in new window or tab.. For questions on rapid COVID testing, email

Note to editors and reporters: For photos and footage of the State Superintendent’s visit to Chula Vista schools, please contact Anthony Millican, CVESD Director of Communications, at

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, April 22, 2024
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