Sometimes, an email just isn’t enough.
Students at an Orange County school for deaf and hard of hearing received a specially-made video from their teachers this week, saying how much they are missed during the school closures.
Set to “It’s a Small World,” the 2:20-minute video features teachers in Disneyland attire — while sheltering-in-place at home — singing, signing and smiling for their students.
“We all wanted to reach out to our students at a time when they needed it most,” said David Longo, principal of the Orange County Department of Education’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. “This whole process has been very difficult for many of them. We had heard many comments from them about missing school and wanted to let them know we miss them, too.”
Like districts across the state, the Orange County Department of Education recently announced it was closing its offices and campuses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the rush to set up online-learning systems and email families, teachers at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program felt they didn’t have ample time to connect with students personally, said teacher Chris Gonzales.
“Most importantly, we wanted to say, ‘We are still here for you. See you soon,’” he said. “We wanted to send a message to our students to let them know, although we are currently divided by miles, we are still here for them whenever they need it.”
The school serves 105 6th-through-12th graders from throughout Orange County and surrounding cities. Located at two campuses in the Irvine Unified School District, the program offers special day classes for students who need them, as well as the chance to participate in regular classes and extracurricular activities. The school also offers services for young adults to age 22.
Teachers were inspired to create the video when they saw a few social media posts featuring “It’s a Small World,” the well-known Disney anthem. The staff felt an extra urgency to connect with students, Gonzales said, because outside school, many students have few people with whom they can communicate.
Gonzales and counselor Kim Coronado “put countless hours” putting the video together, Longo said.
“All I can say is I still cannot watch it without smiling,” Longo said. “It’s nice to share a little humanity at this time, especially when many of our students don’t have access to communication at home. School is often that one place where they feel connected and important and we wanted to make sure they knew we were still here.”
Carolyn Jones covers student wellness for EdSource.