MUHSD Matters

September-October 2020 Edition

Big picture

[The return of Athletics is marked with social distancing.]


District Vision

Every student will walk off of the graduation stage with a diploma in one hand and a CTE certification/proficiency in the other along with college credit on their transcript.

District Mission

Every staff member, every day, will support all students to acquire the skills necessary to develop and follow their post-secondary dreams.


Superintendent - Alan Peterson

Deputy Superintendent - Ralph Calderon

Assistant Superintendent (Educational Services) - Constantino Aguilar

Assistant Superintendent (Business & Student Services) - Scott Weimer

Board of Trustees

Richard Lopez - President

Tiffany Pickle - Vice President

Erin Hamm - Clerk

John Sweigard - Member

Julio Valadez - Member

In This Issue...

...And Much More!


Big picture

MUHSD began to welcome students back on campus yesterday, constituting the official re-opening of our schools. Between 1-3pm through Thursday of this week students will be welcomed back in a “non cohort” fashion. Merced County Department of Public Health has encouraged districts to take an incremental approach when feasible. Schools will offer freshman orientation along with opportunities for other student groups to meet with various staff. Offering freshmen orientation this week is very important, as these students have yet to set foot on our campuses. The incremental steps taken this week will help foster a smooth start next week when all students return. All staff will be participating in a professional development training this Friday, so students will be receiving asynchronous assignments.

The students who are returning to campus have been divided up into two groups: A and B. Students in the "A" group will attend school on campus Monday and Thursday, while students in the “B” group attend Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday will alternate each week between A and B. The B group will attend school on campus next Wednesday, November 4. Please click here to view the schedule through the end of the semester. Splitting the students into groups helps significantly lower class size and foster social distancing. All sites will be on their normal full day bell schedule unless a change is mutually agreed upon with the teachers' union prior to Monday.

The Return to In-person Learning Plan was presented to the Board of Trustees and distributed to staff as well as the accompanying narrative. If you haven't had a chance to review them, I highly suggest you do so. Also, a Return to In-person Learning FAQ sheet was compiled from staff feedback and emails over the past few weeks. It is a very comprehensive document and I recommend going through that as well.

Excitement surrounding students returning to school is building, and for some, anxiety is on the rise as well. I want to stress to everyone that the safety of staff and students remains the district's top priority. Deputy Superintendent Calderon will be meeting with all site administrators and walking campuses next week in order to make sure all protocols and equipment is in place. As a parent, I understand the concerns that are out there. The MUHSD COVID Exposure Prevention Plan outlines the safety measures implemented by the district and protocols for staff and students. The plan was created in conjunction with the Merced County Department of Public Health. Some of the areas of concern addressed in the plan include: staff training, cleaning and sanitizing, transportation, classroom procedures, and many other topics. This safety plan is thorough, and I encourage you to read it.

Even the most comprehensive plan will only work if people do their part. Please stay 6ft away from others, wear a mask properly, and wash your hands constantly. All of us need to model this behavior for students. This is a great opportunity to restore some normalcy for all of us.

Whether you're a student, an employee, or a guest, every single person who steps foot on a school campus will have the responsibility to follow protocols. Please check our district website and/or social media channels for the latest information.


Alan Peterson

MUHSD Superintendent


Getting To Know

Big picture

Lee Shaw, El Capitan High Principal

Number of years with current title: 4

Number of years with MUHSD: 16

What made you seek a career in education?

I love working with people & loved sharing my passion for literature as an English teacher. There is something absolutely amazing about human beings & the interaction & impartation we provide each other. Every single person is unique & we are so privileged to work in education.

What keeps you motivated to do your job to the best of your ability?

A sense of duty & burden that our whole community & each individual student is counting on us to provide a life changing experience for them. The amazing people at El Capitan & throughout MUHSD make it easy to be motivated.

Short-term goals?

Help staff, students, & the community navigate Covid & thrive both within their personal lives & their profession.

Long-term goals?

Help move education a little closer to where it needs to be & into a model that is better for the students & their real educational needs. Teachers should love teaching & students should love learning.

What's the best piece of advice that someone has ever given to you?

Love your neighbor as yourself.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Spending a decade in overseas missionary work.

What does it take for a student to be successful during Distance Learning?

An amazing teacher who understands the student’s challenges. A positive attitude. An understanding that this is just temporary. Individual determination & personal responsibility. Realizing you are still in control of your education.

What's something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

I have always been into video games & arcade games. I have original Pac-man & Space Invader machines I restored from non-working condition, ten pinball machines, & every Nintendo console ever released, boxed & in collectible condition. I also completed Zelda: Breath of the Wild!!!


Students and Staff Come To Terms with Distance Learning

Big picture
Due to Merced County's high COVID numbers, MUHSD was forced to begin the school year with everyone on Distance Learning. Students logged into classes on their chrome books and teachers conducted lessons both from home and their classrooms. To help with connectivity, every student was offered a mobile Wifi device (MiFi) and teachers were provided webcams. A tech support hotline was also established.

Instruction ends around 12:30pm each day, with teachers making themselves available in the afternoon for "office hours" where students can follow up if they need to go over something again or help with assignments. Unlike the spring, students are being held accountable for their learning. Attendance and participation is mandatory and grades are being earned.

Like anything new, Distance Learning has taken some getting used to but sites have done a great job accommodating students. Cohorts are now taking place where small groups are coming on campus for much-needed in-person instruction. And with the county moving into the red tier of the state's COVID-19 risk assessment model, soon more students will be allowed to return to sites. Families will also have the option to remain on Distance Learning for the remainder of the semester.

We still have a way to go, but staff are excited about being able to begin transitioning back to in-person learning!


Freshman Team Up For "The Mask Project"

Big picture
When the news came down that all students would start the school year on Distance Learning and remain there until Merced County's COVID numbers improved, many felt helpless. But some Freshman students from El Capitan High, Golden Valley High and Merced High took it upon themselves to help make this happen sooner rather than later.

The students, who have known each other since grade school, banned together and created "The Mask Project", a campaign aimed at getting people to wear a mask in public. They posted flyers in businesses, spoke at public forums and promoted the campaign on social media. There's also a website where members of the community can show their support by taking a pledge.

The campaign gained a lot of attention and was even featured on the local news! (see below).

"The Mask Project" on ABC30 News


Meal Services Expanded

Big picture
Just like they did in the spring and over the summer, site cafeteria workers are providing students breakfast and lunch every school day. Our Nutrition Services Department realizes the role schools play in the community and knows that many families depend on schools for meals.

The new Distance Learning schedule caused the program to update it's services and our amazing cafeteria workers didn't missed a beat. Families have been able to pick up both breakfast and lunch either in the morning or afternoon and at any MUHSD site. Thanks to the USDA, the program was opened up to all children and teens ages 18 and under.

To further accommodate families, school buses loaded up with meals are making stops at predetermined locations in neighborhoods every day as well. For a list of meal pick up locations and times, visit the Nutrition Services page on our website.

Nutrition Services is currently updating it's meal program for the return of students. Meals will still be available for those who choose to remain on Distance Learning. Keep an eye out for the new plan, which will be publicized prior to November 2nd.


MUHSD Hosts Community Food Box Distributions

Big picture
More than half a year after the pandemic began, families continue to struggle putting food on the table. That's why MUHSD is happy to partner with the USDA and Ag Link on the "Farmers to Families Food Box Program". Thanks to the work done by MUHSD Nutrition Services Director Erin Tassey and her team, our schools have been used multiple times as food box distribution sites.

Each box is filled with locally sourced items including fresh produce and meat. The entire community is always invited, and more food box distributions are in the works!


Hand sanitizing stations added to school sites

When students return to schools, they're going to notice some new additions to their campuses aimed at preventing the contraction and spread of COVID-19. These hand sanitizing stations are contactless and have been placed at multiple locations on every school site.


Transportation Department Keeps Busy During Distance Learning

Big picture
By looking at the photo above, you would think that the school bus on the right is much newer than the one on the left. In actuality, both buses looked the same right up until one got a nice buff job and waxing. This restoration of vehicles has been a primary focus for the Transportation Department during Distance Learning

"We always refer ourselves as the billboards of the school district," said MUHSD Director of Transportation Michelle Williams. "It's important that we look as good as possible out on the road."

Initially, Williams thought it might be difficult to find jobs for all of her drivers every day, but she soon realized that there was plenty to do.

"You have this list every year of things that you wish you could get to but there's never any time," said Williams. "But now we've been able to do them, which is great."

Along with the detailing and repairing of vehicles, the department has been getting steady usage from other departments as well. Nutrition Services has utilized buses and vans for it's meal service program where lunches have been loaded up and transported into neighborhoods to accommodate families who may not have time or the means to pick up meals at school sites. Also, cohorts consisting of small groups of students are being transported to and from campuses.

The department has also spent this time getting everyone up to speed on the latest COVID-19 protocols. When campuses open back up to students, there will be some new measures implemented aimed at preventing contraction and spread.

"Everyone on the bus will wear a mask the entire time and buses will be sanitized after each route," said Williams. "And because only one person is allowed per seat, there will be routes with multiple buses so that's something parents should be aware of too."

Williams has been especially busy the past couple of weeks putting together those bus routes. It's a tedious process, but one that she doesn't mind doing because it means that her drivers will soon be back doing what they love.

"The drivers really miss the kids and can't wait to be back on the road," said Williams.


School Libraries Adapt Services

Big picture

MUHSD's Libraries are open for business with curbside pick-up! Students can request books by placing them on hold through the online catalog and pick them up from their site at their convenience. Students and staff can also access books from any of the district libraries through the Interlibrary Loans (ILL) system.

Below is a tutorial on how to check out books from the library.

Curbside Book Pickup
Did you know that e-books and audio books are also available? Watch the tutorial below to learn how to access those!
School libraries also provide online reader's advisory and seasonal book recommendations. Click on the "Library" tab of your school's website and follow your school library on social media to learn more!


MUHSD Takes A Nurturing Approach

The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is a methodology based on creating relationships with students by seeing and recognizing the greatness that is already within them. The NHA ties in well with the district's efforts to focus on social/emotional learning and is the topic of a current series of parent workshops led by Advanced NHA Trainer Viviana Barajas.

These workshops are an opportunity for parents and the community to learn about NHA and how MUHSD plans to utilize it district-wide. See the flyer below for a list of upcoming webinars.

Big picture

Viviana Barajas was a recent guest on an episode of the district's podcast, "Impact".

Take a listen!

Impact: An MUHSD Podcast

The Nurtured Heart Approach by Impact: An MUHSD Podcast


Two MUHSD Educators Named County's Best

Big picture
The Merced County Office of Education's "2020 Excellence in Education" ceremony was twice as sweet for MUHSD which had two educators honored as Merced County's best. Independence High's Samantha Johnston and Atwater High's Maricela Perez were selected "Teacher of the Year" and "Employee of the Year" respectively at the event that was broadcasted on October 1st. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the ceremony was held virtually.

We are very proud and fortunate to have both Samantha and Maricela in the MUHSD family! If you missed the ceremony, you can watch it below.

2020 Merced County Excellence in Education Awards


Community Blood Drives Provide Opportunity To Help Save Lives

Big picture
According to the American Red Cross, someone in the US is in need of blood every two seconds. Also, one donation can save up to three lives! These are startling statistics, and that's why MUHSD is proud to partner with the American Red Cross.

The "Community Blood Drives" offer students, staff and the community an opportunity to help save lives. Due to social distancing guidelines, appointments must be made ahead of time and walk-ins will not be accepted.

To find out the next opportunity to donate, visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.


Golden Valley High's Ag Program Named Top in the State

Big picture
Golden Valley High's Ag Program has had a banner year racking up the accolades, and in return, The California Future Farmers of America (FFA) Association named the GV FFA chapter the No. 1 program in the state for 2020. The rankings are a culmination of items including State Degrees, American Degrees, Proficiencies, and more.

Golden Valley High had 34 students earn state degrees this year, a program record. The GV FFA also had 22 students earn American FFA degrees which is a state record. The American FFA degree is the highest degree an FFA member can attain.

Back in August, GV FFA members Peter Bliss, Hunter Aue, Spencer Stephens and Josh Heupel were State Proficiency Winners for their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects. They will all compete in Nationals this month.

Check out this great write up by the Merced Sun-Star below about the GV FFA's amazing accomplishment!


Recognizing Yosemite High's Heroes

The staff at Yosemite High were honored at the 2020 "Hands On Heroes" ceremony for their efforts to educate and make an impact on the lives their students. The event, which pays tribute to people and organizations in the community that go above and beyond for the benefit of the youth, is put on every year by Merced County Office of Education and First 5 Merced County.

The ceremony was virtual this year and was streamed online. If you were unable to catch it live, you can view the entire ceremony below.

Hands On Heroes of Merced County 2020


Atwater High Ag Department's Annual Beautification Day Event Gets A Makeover

Big picture
*Story and photos submitted by Atwater FFA

For over fifteen years, the Atwater High School FFA has organized and coordinated with the school and community “beautification day” and with the challenges associated with students currently not on campus and the COVID-19 situation, Atwater FFA needed to get creative and evolve the activity into something safe and “new”. What was created, initiated, and implemented on October 15th by the Atwater FFA student leadership class was a student “choice board” focused on serving others and their community.

Over 100 students participated in various “choices” (activities) that included donations to fire victims, community landscape maintenance, children game donations, neighborhood clean-up, winter coat drive, Halloween cards for the elderly, care packages for the homeless, animal shelter donations, and book drive. Atwater FFA coordinated a “drive thru” drop off for students to drop off their items while other students sent pictures of their community service “in action” to verify their efforts and service. “I’m so proud of the student’s efforts and participation of this event as it went beyond expectations,,” said FFA advisor Kim Mesa. “The students did an awesome job!”

The Atwater High School Agriculture program and FFA is working diligently to expand opportunities for academic success, skill development, personal growth, career exploration, and community involvement. “Serving our community is one of the benefits of being involved with the FFA and I feel this activity provided us students a moment to give and serve others,” said FFA chapter officer Gaby Lucas.

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website


El Capitan High Student Helps Others Get Their Grades Up

Many students have struggled with Distance Learning and their grades have reflected this. Agastya Jain, a junior at El Capitan High School, saw an opportunity to help his fellow classmates.

Agastya created a free online tutoring platform, "209 Tutoring", to help all students in Merced County. There is also a website,, where people an sign up for a tutor or to become a tutor as well.

"The sole purpose of this website is to aid struggling students in Merced County with their academic endeavors, especially during this virtual learning phase," said Agastya. "If more students and parents in the district know about this, less students will be failing classes during online learning."


Buhach Colony Spreads Kindness

Every year, Buhach Colony High holds "Kindness Week". During this time, kindness challenges are given out to students to complete each day of the week, but because of Distance Learning, the year's event had to take place online. However, BCHS still marked the occasion in a very visible way. Staff grabbed some chalk and wrote inspirational quotes and drew pictures in the quad for all to see.


Yosemite High Celebrates Patriots Week

Yosemite High ASB President Jessica Lopez created a 3-day virtual event leading up to the anniversary of 9/11. Students were encouraged to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue and reaching out to a veteran or current military service person and thanking them for their service. The event concluded on Sept 11th with a "Remember The Fallen" schoolwide video.


Atwater High Celebrates Return Of Employee Who Beat COVID

Jesus Lopez, aka Jesse, is a custodian at Atwater High who is known for always being happy. That's why everyone was was excited to hear that he had made a full recovery after battling COVID.

Students and staff celebrated his return to work, complete with a cake!


Livingston High's Media Excels

As Livingston High has adjusted to Distance Learning, students have continued to keep the student body informed in innovative ways. Every day at 9:45am, LHS ASB Officers provide the daily bulletin live on Instagram. Site staff realized early on that, by utilizing the popular app, they could reach a number of students and keep them informed on the latest campus news and important dates.

Also, Livingston High's news channel "Wolf Pack News" has stepped up production and now puts out two shows each week in addition to the station's online magazine, WPNMAG. Check out the latest edition here.


Merced FFA Joins The World Of Podcasting

The FFA Chapter at Merced High now has a new way to inform and entertain the community. Be The Future was created to give students, staff and the community a better idea of what the Ag Department at MHS is like. The podcast will provide the chapter's latest updates and events, industry news as well as interviews with its members and advisors.


CAPET Program Adjusts To Distance Learning

Big picture
Like everyone else, Mrs. Leonardo had to adapt her curriculum for Distance Learning. However, her Cross-Age Physical Education Tutoring (CAPET) class is a little unique.

Before the pandemic hit, you could find Leonardo and her students at elementary schools teaching PE to students half their age. Lessons included everything from the importance of good nutrition to physical activities. Over the summer, Leonardo began working with elementary schools on a way to keep the partnership alive during while schools were closed.

"I knew we couldn't go to school sites and that everything was going to be online, but I also knew that I didn't want the class to be text-heavy," said Leonardo. "So I just said, 'You know what? My students are going to have to adapt and become tech savvy just like real teachers.'"

The first couple of weeks of the school year were spent on learning the ins and outs of WeVideo, a video editing application. They also went over production aspects like camera angles and voice projection. Soon, it was time to start making videos.

"I guided them at the beginning with themes, but now they’re doing it all on their own," said Leonardo. "I’m so proud of the videos they are putting together. The students are showing so much creativity."

According to Leonardo, the elementary teachers are incorporating the videos into their curriculum. Her students say that they try to make the videos as entertaining as they are informational.

"I try to make every video as fun as possible for the kids," said Matthew Valencia. "Even though it is through video, I'm still doing my best to make it work for the students."

"The teachers appreciate my students for providing their students with daily PE lessons," said Leonardo. "And while they miss the interaction, knowing that the elementary students are watching them really motivates my students to keep going."

Leonardo's students can't wait to be back in her classroom as well as the elementary schools.

"I miss seeing and working with the elementary students," said Courtney Luna. "But even though we are only able to work with the students on video, I am happy that we are able to still do something."

Check out some if the great videos made by Mrs. Leonardo's class for elementary students below!

Warm Up
Warm Up


PBL (Podcast-Based Learning)

Big picture

Everyone in education knows about Project Based Learning, but have you ever heard about Podcast Based Learning? That's exactly what's taking place in Mr. Meneley's U.S. History class at Merced High where students are hosting a podcast entitled "2020: Experiencing History in the Making". A variety of topics are covered stemming from four major themes that are dominating the headlines this year: the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice, environmental concerns and the 2020 Presidential Election.

The student podcast was borne out of an online mentorship class Mr. Meneley attended over the summer. The webinars were led by Merced High 2020 graduate and amateur podcaster David Chen. You might recall, David produced and hosted the “We The Students” podcast on the campus of Merced High. David also found a way to continue podcasting when schools closed due to the pandemic and right up until he graduated.

Mr. Meneley was part of a cohort of educators that worked with David during the summer. The series of Zoom calls, which became known among the group as “Podcasting 101”, covered everything from getting familiar with podcasting equipment to incorporating podcasting into the curriculum. Participants were provided step-by-step how-to videos and instructional slide presentations that covered podcasting styles, voice and intonation, as well as recording and editing. Upon completion of the mentorship, Mr. Meneley was ready to introduce the project to his class but he still needed a theme. Then, it hit him.

“I came up with the “Experiencing History in the Making” theme to give students the opportunity, sooner rather than later, to take a look at everything going on around them and reconcile their thoughts about it,” said Mr. Meneley. “After all, they have a front-row seat to history, and their experience is a primary source.”

In addition to providing students an outlet to discuss what’s going on in the world around them, by virtue of its interactive nature, podcasting has provided Mr. Meneley with something that had been missing from his class.

“Essentially, this is what we history teachers refer to as ‘Historical Inquiry’ but we often struggle with engagement due to the topics and/or the medium provided,” said Mr. Meneley. “I figured it was a win-win situation and the result speaks for itself.”

The podcast can be listened to on a variety of platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


Construction Corner

Big picture
At the October Regular Board meeting, MUHSD Manager of Facilities Melissa Miller provided the Board with an update on all facilities projects which included recently completed projects, current projects as well as future projects.

Melissa also presented the importance of having a long-range facilities master plan that will provide the vision for the district over the next 10-15 years through a series of guiding principles and is coordinated by MUHSD's recommended facilities projects.

To learn about all projects mentioned, and see before and after photos, click on the button below!


MUHSD Podcast Returns For Second Season

The second season of MUHSD's podcast Impact is four episodes in and we've turned out some great shows already!

We kicked off the new season with an interview with Dr. Sima Asadi, a well-known local pediatrician who is on a mission to help school districts bring students back to campuses safely. We've also done episodes about MUHSD's after school program (ASSETS), the Nurtured Heart Approach and the district's Drug and Alcohol intervention program (UDA).

You can listen to those podcasts as well as our last season on SoundCloud, Spotify or And when you're there, be sure to subscribe so you don't miss future episodes!


Athletics Returns To MUHSD Sites

Big picture
After months of waiting, student-athletes were finally allowed to return to schools to practice and get into shape for the upcoming season. Back in the summer, the CIF decided to move the start of fall sports to late-December/early January. Since then, students, coaches and athletic directors have been anxious to get back on the field, the track, the court and in the pool.

Athletes and coaches are required to maintain social distancing and several protocols are in place to prevent contraction and spread of COVID-19. But even with all of the restrictions, students tell us that they are just happy to be back with their teammates again.

We Want To Hear From You!

Submit Story Ideas!

Now's the time to toot your own horn! Click on the button above to submit a story or segment idea!

How Are We Doing?

Submit your feedback for MUHSD Matters by clicking the button above!

MUHSD Matters is published by the MUSHD Communications Department.