By Dr. Jesus Gonzalez, Ivanhoe Elementary School Principal
The Ivanhoe Elementary staff work diligently to create as many opportunities as possible and conditions for all students to have a sense of belonging and a feeling of safety. Research shows that when students feel safe and connected to school, their academic and social well-being increases.
This sense of connection to the school also has a direct correlation to a student’s school attendance. In recognizing these facts, we believe that strengthening the partnership between Ivanhoe Elementary and families will continue to be an important focus for us all. There are many ways students can participate in school activities that support students’ sense of belonging and improve attendance.
With the increased funding from the state, Ivanhoe Elementary along with the rest of our Visalia Unified School District have been able to expand our afterschool enrichment programs for TK-6th grade students. These programs provide a welcoming space for students to safely participate with others and increase their sense of belonging by participating in positive activities.
These programs include various sports, Science Technology Engineering Mathematics S.T.E.M. focus, Career Technical Education (CTE), Book Clubs, Makerspace, Art, Computer Coding, and Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA). Ivanhoe Elementary School prides itself in currently being the only elementary school to offer students in all grade levels the opportunity to join our school’s Folklorico Dance group, which meets twice a week after school.
All TK-6th grade students and families are welcome to sign up to these free 6 week after school scheduled programs through the Expanded Learning Opportunities Programs (ELOP). The information to register a student can be found on the district website, school website, and Ivanhoe front office.
This year we took a few extra measures to increase connectivity between students and school. At the beginning of the school year, every student was gifted an Ivanhoe Knight spirit shirt to participate in our weekly Ivanhoe spirit Fridays. The highest participating class or classes win some sweet treats and a little extra recess time. Each month, the class with the highest percent of students wearing their Ivanhoe Knights on spirit Fridays, wins the covenant little Ivan Knight statue along with a list of fun choices for the winning class.
We also began a lunch time run/walk club for all students to join and be part of a student group, and with the use of technology, students can keep track of their individual milestones. The top distance students of each grade are recognized for their accomplishments. On other days, ASB coordinates lunch time activities for all interested students to participate in with their peers.
Finally, we have worked hard at increasing student daily attendance by creating incentives for students to be present at school every day. We know that when students’ daily attendance increases, so does their academic success and sense of belonging.
This has large implications because as students move from elementary school through high school, the students with stronger academic skills and connections are typically much better prepared for college success and/or a career. Every month we select a primary class and intermediate class with the highest percentage of students in attendance and reward these classes with a donut party. Also this year, we began to incentivize weekly perfect attendance with weekly raffle ticket drawings during lunch for small prizes. These and other incentives continue to reinforce the behaviors research repeatedly indicates increases a student’s likelihood to be college and career ready. We feel that by working together with families, Ivanhoe students can accomplish great things and be highly motivated for their future endeavors.