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Mr. Popper's Penguins            Read by Mrs. Kawahara


Patricia Kawahara

Sequoia Elementary
September 4, 2020

Dear Families,

I hope this letter finds you and all you care about well. We are three weeks into this new adventure and I hope that things are settling down as everyone learns the routines and systems in place to support them this year. As has been mentioned before, this year will be one of new learning for all us. We have all been working hard and will enjoy the 3-day weekend! There is NO SCHOOL MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th in honor of Labor Day.

This week Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd and 5th grades held their Back to School Nights. 4th and 2nd grades will hold theirs on Tuesday, September 8th. I hope you had/have a chance to jump on these zooms but if not, please be sure to look over the presentations the teachers shared with everyone and reach out to your child’s teacher with any questions. A strong home-school connection is always important for student success, and this year that is more important than ever.

On Wednesday, September 9th at 6:00 p.m. I am hosting a Zoom call to present information about broader school-wide items and initiatives. For security reasons the link will be sent out Wednesday, September 9th.
Keep reading for information on assessments, the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile of the month, parent trainings and important dates.


To read more important information, click here.

Thank you for the gift of your child,
Patricia Kawahara
Principal, Sequoia Elementary


August 14, 2020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope you are well! 

Thank you to all the families that stopped by at All in One Day.  We know the lines were long and it was hot. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked to provide everyone with what they need to start off the school year in Distance Learning.  A big thank you to SPA, Maggie, Mary and all the volunteers who helped to pull off the day.  We could not have done it without you!

School begins on Monday, August 17.  By now, you should have heard from the classroom teachers with information about Monday’s Zoom meetings.  Most Zoom meetings are happening in the 9:00 hour. Below are a few tips from schools that have already had their first day:

  1. Have your child(ren) login over the weekend. If there are any problems, please call us Monday morning.
  2. Log in about 20 minutes early.  The teacher may not admit you early but this will allow some time to work through glitches getting onto Zoom.
  3. Do not fret when things go sideways.  We have all lived in this digital world long enough now to know that the internet may drop – on your end or ours – or folks may freeze momentarily on Zoom. The key to getting through this will be communication and patience.  Reach out to your teacher when your child missed something because of technical issues.
  4. A designated workspace away from distractions will set your child up for success.  My son had to move all of his art supplies so he is not tempted when he is meant to being schoolwork.

As I have mentioned before, we are starting the school year by emphasizing Social Emotional well-being and community/connection.  Teachers will be spending time getting to know the students and helping them to foster connections among their peers. You will notice a big push on this front over the next few weeks.  This work will continue over the school year as well, with community circles being an on-going feature of our classrooms.  This is in alignment with our PBIS program and is something we value as we strive to educate the whole child. 

Sequoia Middle/Elementary are part of the district food program this year.  Please check out the information on our website and the MDUSD website if you would like to pick up lunches.

A full newsletter will come this week but I wanted to share just a few tidbits to keep in mind as we embark on what will surely be a successful first day.

Please reach out with questions.

Thank you for the gift of your child,

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

August 7, 2020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope this email finds you well.  We are looking forward to seeing you at All in One Day (August 13th) and jumping in with the kiddos on Monday, August 17th!  

The Reopening Plan continues to be refined.  There is now a more detailed daily schedule that was negotiated in a Memo of Understanding between the Teacher's Union and MDUSD (attached below for your reference).  The teachers will take this schedule and refine it further, mapping out which part of the Instructional Block will be set for their online lessons, etc.  The teachers officially return to work Monday, August 10th and will share the information with you over the next week.  Having said that, the general outline of the day will remain the same.  There are set minutes for Live Interactions (90 minutes in Kindergarten, 120 minutes in 1st-5th everyday but Wednesday). This is the time that each student will be online for synchronous lessons with their teacher.  There are also set minutes for Instructional Time (180 minutes in Kindergarten and 240 minutes in 1st-5th everyday but Wednesday). This time includes the Live Interaction minutes and independent work time (which might include asynchronous lessons).  You will see that Wednesday has reduced minutes for Live Interaction (45 minutes in Kindergarten and 60 minutes for 1st-5th). Students will also have independent work time on Wednesdays.  Please note that Virtual Office Hours are listed for each day.  I strongly encourage parents and students to use the Office Hours.  Communication is going to be a key component of our success.

We will be sharing more details about what to expect as we refine the daily schedules, incorporate specials (music, garden, library and STEAM), integrate our International Baccalaureate units and continue to support our students and community.  

The Superintendent's Letter mentioned some new features on the Roadmap to reopening page on the MDUSD website.  I encourage you to check it out.

We appreciate your patience as we work out the details to opening the school year remotely.  As I have shared with you before, this is not a road that we would ever choose to travel but I am glad that we are walking it together as a Sequoia community.

General Schedule 

Thank you for the gift of your child,

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary



August 4, 2020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope all continues to be well with all of you!

Following are some updates that you will want to note:

All in One Day, Thursday, August 13th (this is pushed back from the original date of August 11th). In order to ensure social distancing we have broken down the times as follows:

  • A-H     8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
  • I-P       1:00 p.m. – 4:30p.m.
  • Q-Z     4:30 p.m.-7:00p.m.

These are suggested times in order to minimize the number of people on campus at one time.  If you are not able to attend on Thursday, please call the office to make an appointment.  Please note, children should not attend unless child care is an issue.  Also, masks are required and 6 feet social distance will need to be maintained.

What to expect at All in One Day:

Chromebook distribution for those that indicated they need one (If you have not done so already, please be sure you complete the “Tech Needs” survey by Friday: Tech Survey Form

Submit updated Student Demographic form (these are being mailed home)

Submit Universal Form, Responsible Use & Distant Learning Forms (attached below)

Sign up for Teacher Meet and Greet

Submit proof of vaccinations (if you haven’t already submitted it – this is required for all incoming Kindergarten students before the first day of school)

Sequoia Spirit Wear

Sequoia Parent Association information

Teacher Meet and Greet, Monday, August 17th

A key component of any effective classroom is the connection students have to the teacher and to one another.  The Sequoia staff is dedicated to fostering community and building that connection.  To that end, the Sequoia teachers will be hosting individual student meetings at the Teacher Meet and Greet on Monday, August 17th.  This will be either an in-person appointment or a virtual meeting.  The sign-up sheet will be available at All in One Day.  If you do not sign up at All in One Day, we will follow up with you.  Also, if your teacher is offering an in-person meeting and you would prefer a virtual meeting, we will arrange that– just let us know. Textbooks, Classroom log-ins and class specific information will be distributed at the Teacher Meet and Greet.

We look forward to seeing you all soon – in person or online!

Thank you for the gift of your child,

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

Distance Learning Expectations Universal Form Responsible Use Policy 

August 3, 3020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope you are all doing well!

We are working on getting everything set for the start of the school year for Distance Learning.  One key component of this work is ensuring that all of our students have access to devices and the internet.  

Please complete the following survey so we can get a sense our community's needs.  The survey will close on Friday, August 7th at 10:00 a.m. If you have any questions regarding devices, please feel free to email me.

For survey click here.

Thank you -

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

July 31, 2020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope everyone is well at your house!!

The Superintendent shared the Reopening Plan in his letter yesterday. It is posted on the MDUSD website under the Roadmap to Reopening page.  The plan is in keeping with the state guidelines and provides a broad template from which to work.  Some highlights from the plan include:

1) Attendance is required every day

2) Schedules will be posted on the school website along with links to the Google Classrooms (lower grades  may use the SeeSaw platform, which is a Google platform geared for younger children)

3) Instructional minutes (the amount of time you should expect your child to be engaged in school work) break down as follows:

Kindergarten 180 minutes

1st-5th  230 minutes

4) Social Emotional support is a key component of the plan

5) Devices will be provided to students that need them - more information is expected on this next week

We are awaiting the Memo of Understanding with the teachers union, which will provide a common understanding around the details of implementation and then from there, the Sequoia staff and grade levels will further refine the plan.  We will be working hard over the next two weeks and will be ready to greet our students on August 17th! 

 The office will be open starting August 3rd by appointment only.  This will prevent congestion and allow us to maintain social distancing.

I am meeting with Amy Hatlen, the incoming SPA President - welcome Amy!, on Monday to refine the plan for All in One Day.  Information will be sent out early next week. 

Finally, I have to say that with all of the changes to the opening of school, one thing that hasn't changed is the excitement that comes as we anxiously await the beginning of the school year!  The countdown is on! :)

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

July 27, 2020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope you are all well!

Last night the MDUSD School Board voted to move the start date from August 13th to August 17th in order to provide Professional Development for teachers on Distance Learning and allow time for teachers to prepare their Distance classrooms.  This adjustment will eliminate the two non-student days (1 in October and 1 in March) so that the school year does not need to be extended.  

I expect to receive more information about the Distance Learning model and when I do, I will send additional messages.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and say "hi" to your children for us!

We look forward to seeing all of you soon, even if only virtually!

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

July 21, 2020

Dear Sequoia Families,

I hope you and all of yours are safe and healthy!

As I am sure you have heard, the decision has been made that all schools in Contra Costa County will be opening with Remote Learning due to the COVID numbers.  The MDUSD Reopening Committees are switching gears from the Hybrid Model and working out the details of what this means from a logistical, technological and instructional perspective.  I recommend checking the Superintendent’s Friday Letter and the Roadmap to Reopening page (both of which are on the MDUSD website) for updates as things continue to shift quickly. I find the Roadmap Timeline very helpful. As we get information, we will continue to push it out on our website too.

I want to thank you for reaching out with concerns and questions.  I answer emails daily and am available for phone calls if they are prearranged (I am technically on vacation so am not able to answer phone calls at school).  I do not have any final answers, and as a parent going through this process too, I do understand how very frustrating this can be. What I expect from Remote Learning this fall is that it will look different from what it looked like in the spring.  We shifted into School Closure and a Stay at Home Order within days in March. This is not the case for the fall.  A clear plan is being developed in alignment with Assembly Bill 77 and Senate Bill 98.  These bills provide guidelines and expectations for all schools implementing Remote Learning.  Again, we will keep you posted as the plan is finalized. 

As the instructional model is being adjusted, so too will typical events. All in One Day, Back to School Night and Kinder Sneak Peak are all events that will require rethinking.  We will also need to add in Materials and Technology pick up times.  We will be diving into this work over the next few weeks and I expect that we will push out the details in the beginning of August.

Please know that we are so very sad to be opening school without seeing the excited faces of all of our kiddos.  We miss them and you more than you can know.  This is not a road we chose but I am heartened to be on this journey with the Sequoia community – teachers, staff, families and our littles that we hold so dear. This is a challenge that will require all of us to dig in and think about things in a new way. It will require flexibility, patience and grace but I know that we will work to support our students and sustain our community. Our Sequoia Stars will continue to shine bright!

Finally, I want to welcome our new Superintendent, Dr. Clark, to the MDUSD community!  We are excited to have him on our team and look forward to working with him as he leads us though this uncharted water.

Thank you for the gift of your child and please continue to stay safe!

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

June 4, 2020

Well, we made it to the end of the year!  This year, more than ever, we could not have done it without your support!  We all deserve a little bit of a break and I hope that you and your children have some time to relax, even if it is just in the backyard. I am attaching a link to a survey that will help us reflect and grow in our service to the community. If you have a few moments, we would appreciate your insights.   Survey link   

I know that there are many questions about what next year will look like, and at this point, I do not have any answers.  At the last MDUSD Board Meeting, Jennifer Sachs presented the development plan that will be used to design the program(s) for next fall.  I am attaching the link, should you want to review it.  As we receive information I will keep you posted.  We will also post it on our website.  No matter what adjustments may lay ahead, we will continue to support our students in their academic and social-emotional growth.  Development Plan link


As this is the end of the school year letter, I had wanted to keep the tone light and celebratory.  However, given recent events around the country I feel that it would be remiss to not address the deep sadness and anger being expressed on the streets throughout the country and the systemic racism underlying it.  As a white woman I have worked to understand my privilege and the responsibility to address institutionalized racism.  The urgency of this work is felt everyday as I look at the faces of our beautiful students and know that the work must be done now so that our students have a better tomorrow.  As a staff we have begun the conversation and work around equity – deepening our understanding of our own racial experiences and how they inform the work we do with students. This work will continue to be a focus as we move forward. 

Thank you, as always, for the gift of your child,

Patricia Kawahara

Principal, Sequoia Elementary

Principal’s End-of-Year Updates

Pick Up/Turn in Dates:

Parents will be invited to school starting Wednesday, May 27th through Friday, May 29th to turn in Chromebooks and library books, and to pick up student’s personal items.  Yearbooks and Alumni T-shirts (for 5th graders who ordered them) will also be available for pick-up at this time.  The Leadership Team has developed a plan that allows for appropriate social distancing.  We will be sharing the plan next week.

Distance Learning Update:

The week of May 26th students will transition from online learning to offline lessons and experiences, so students can expect that Zoom and other online meetings will conclude after May 22nd.  Offline learning will be concluding on Friday, May 29th.  This will allow students to stay engaged without devices, as we are collecting them that week of May.

5th Grade Zoom Promotion Celebration:

We will hold an online promotion ceremony for our departing 5th graders on Thursday, May 28th at 9:00 am.  This is a change from previous plans to hold promotion on the official last day of school, due to updated guidance from the District.  5th Grade Teachers will be sending out all the details.

Report Cards and Assessment:

Every student will be sent a report card by mail at the end of the school year. We are following the district guidelines to “Hold Harmless” students during this unprecedented time. Many students will receive marks of NA (Not Applicable) for many standards, as the distance learning model creates too many variables to hold students accountable, and we do not necessarily have a true measure of a student’s understanding. Over the past month, teachers have been working on closing the loop in terms of gauging student progress.  This information has been used to measure growth and target instruction.

April 26, 2020

Dear Sequoia Stars,

I hope you are doing well! We miss you and continue to look forward to the day that we see you again!

My children greatly enjoyed the book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater so I thought I would share it with you.  Click on the link if you get a chance.  I hope you find the story as silly as Walter and Emiko do.

Sending hugs!

Mrs. Kawahara

April 12, 2020

Dear Sequoia Stars,

Happy Monday!  I hope you all enjoyed Spring Break – even if you were just home relaxing. 

We recently got word that we will have to extend the School Closure through the end of the school year.  While this is very sad news for all of us, I know that we will continue to come together as a community!  We will see our classmates and teachers in Zoom/Google meetings and continue to learn and grow together!  I may even drop in on some meetings – I hope to see each of you there!

The IB Learner Profile for April is Principled. We are Principled when, We act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, and with respect for the dignity and rights of people everywhere. We take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.” 

This week is Spirit Week (thank you to Mrs. Altman and SPA for coordinating!).

Monday             Stuffed Animal Day

Tuesday            Hat Day

Wednesday       Crazy Sock Day

Thursday          Silly Hair Day

Friday               Spirit Day

Enjoy the week my friends and continue to shine bright Sequoia Stars!!

Mrs. Kawahara