It's Elementary - DES Newsletter

April 2021

Dates to Remember

May 10 - No School/Boarding Students Return

May 11 - May 20 - FSA Testing Grades 3-5, see schedule below

May 31 - No School/Boarding Students Return

June 3 - FIELD DAY!

June 10 - Last Day of 2020-2021 School Year

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Please review this important information! FSA testing is scheduled for grades 3 - 5. This testing is one measure that is used to determine how students have mastered grade level content. Please help your child do his or her best on the test by being mindful of the dates, coming to school well-rested and having had a healthy brain-food breakfast, and using allowable accommodations on the test. Your child's teacher will also review these strategies (and more!) with your child as we approach the testing dates.

May 11 Grade 5 Science

May 12 Grade 5 Science

May 17 FSA ELA Reading (Gr. 4-5)

May 18 FSA ELA Reading (Gr. 4-5)

May 19 FSA Mathematics (Gr. 3-5)

May 20 FSA Mathematics (Gr. 3-5)

Dr. Heidi's Happenings


There is so much happening in Deaf Elementary School! This month, I chose the Bitmoji you see here because sometimes it is important to take time to breathe and take in the moment. It helps remind me to be grateful for all the wonderful things that happen in and around our school community. And in times of stress, it helps the body to relax and refocus. The end of the school year is always a busy one, and as we move in to the final quarter of this very unusual year I find value in slow, deep breaths.

Our school participated in the Great Kindness Challenge this month, creating "Love Links" that we sent to the Kids for Peace organization in California, who will add our links to a paper chain. Schools from all over the world are participating in this paper chain creation, and we are hoping to make it in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest paper chain! You can watch the introductory video to this special event here.

We also had a special celebration at Kids Town this month! Our annual Kids Town Comes Alive event was conducted a little bit differently this year due to social distancing requirements, but the students all had a wonderful time and left the event with lots of goodies. The theme this year was "Candyland" and students enjoyed learning about the classic board game of the same name.

Finally, our upper elementary students have completed their first rounds of FSA testing. Fourth and fifth graders participated in the writing portion of the FSA, and third graders took the English Language Arts FSA. The teachers reported that students were attentive to the test items, took their time with the work, and approached the task seriously. We are so proud of their efforts and look forward to celebrating growth. Please stay tuned for more FSA testing dates coming in May. The schedule is posted above. We appreciate your support in helping us create the best possible testing environment by sending your child to school on time, well rested, and having had a healthy breakfast. We know the test can cause anxiety for some students and families, so the earlier reminder to breathe deeply may also be helpful. And as always, please remember that while we take the FSA very seriously, we also recognize that it is just one of many measures of growth we use in Deaf Elementary School.

Let's make it a great final quarter to an historic school year!

Parent Climate Surveys!

The FSDB Parent Climate Survey was mailed out last week to parents/legal guardians. Your feedback is important to us. The information you share helps us understand what we are doing well and points out opportunities for improvement.

Our annual FSDB Parent Climate Survey will take about 15 minutes of your time. Note: this is different from the survey you completed earlier for the Florida Department of Education. We know how important confidentiality is to you. We want to assure you that your survey responses will be fully protected. FSDB will not use your names or related identifying information as part of our data collection and analysis process.

Please complete the FSDB Parent Climate Survey and return it in the self-addressed envelope by Wednesday, April 28, 2021. If you prefer, you can return it with your child via bus for delivery to your child’s school administrative office. If you have more than one child attending FSDB, please complete a separate survey for each child.

To view the survey in ASL, please visit

We appreciate your time in completing the survey and for sharing your feedback. Thank you for choosing FSDB to educate your child(ren) and for partnering with us to ensure the FSDB experience is a positive one for all students.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Christy Slater, Director of Training and Quality Assurance at 904-827-2322 or via email at

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A Note From Deaf Department Principal Angela Saunders

Deaf Department Families,

We began the fourth quarter last week. During the week, the quarter grades were finalized and report cards were sent home. As we move through the last quarter, we are continuing with our reopening plan and the safety protocols that have been in place this school year even though many of our staff have been vaccinated, adding to the safety of our environment. We have had some students who have been asking about receiving the Covid 19 Vaccine. FSDB will not be providing vaccines or bringing students to vaccination sites. For those students and families interested, Executive Order 21-79, states individuals 16 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Students under age 18 must have a screening consent form and be accompanied by a guardian. You can find more information here.

Our first state mandated mental health instruction began on 4/16. The first topic is Mental Health and Wellness. Upcoming topics include: Reducing Mental Health Stigma, Prevention of Abuse of Addiction to Prescription Drugs (Middle School) and High School- Prevention of Abuse of Addiction to Alcohol, Nicotine, and Drugs, Child human trafficking, Prevention of Suicide, Awareness of School and Community Resources, and Developing Health Coping Strategies. Our Elementary Students are exempt from the Mental Health requirements, but they are required to have human trafficking instruction- with the focus on stranger danger and personal safety, and Drug and Alcohol addiction prevention. These are timely presentations that will give students research based instruction with our Mental Health team available for support.

Have a great week-

Angela Saunders

Updates from Vaill Hall

One of our favorite activities is “Sidewalk chalk” and we had a contest! Each child had a huge square of concrete to draw on and they each had a box of chalk. The bus loop was filled with little artists; we had our Assistant DSL, Matt Ward judge the artwork display and the winner was Jayla! Her art piece was an Easter bunny and Easter chick. Congrats Jayla!!

We finally get to go fishing!!! The weather has been beautiful and the poles are fixed, so it’s time to get our hooks wet!! Joalis was the only one who caught anything. Way to go Joalis!!!! Another activity we do in the evening is walk the track. Spring is in the air!

Spotted in Each Grade Level

Every month we ask grade level teams to tell us something special they spotted in Gore Hall. Here are their responses!

Kindergarten: An older student telling a younger student to sit and wait patiently for their tutor.

First grade had a blast making mini-greenhouses during science class. They are watching as their flowers grow and making observations about the plant life cycle.

Second grade: A student helping a new student with fingerspelling and learning to sign.

Third grade: Some "science" popped up under the slide at recess! All the kids were so interested in checking out the frog who had found what he THOUGHT was a quiet place to hang out!

Fourth grade: Learning about the different heritages and cultures that make up Florida and finding out which culture groups they belong to.

Fifth grade: Students engaging and playing by the rules when we did a camouflage game. After learning about how Praying Mantises have adapted to stay alive in the Rain Forest, we had the students participate in a hands-on activity. They had 5 seconds to pick up small pieces of green paper that were placed on a green background to symbolize how the Praying Mantises camouflage on leaves. We then placed small pieces of brown paper on the green background and gave them 5 seconds to pick up as many as possible. This symbolizes the Praying Mantises if they did not adapt to match their environment or if we destroy their environment the effect would be that they are more susceptible to being spotted by predators.

Learning Lab: A student reading to another student during recess.

Favorite Moments From Each Grade Level

Every month we ask grade level teams to share a favorite moment. Here are their responses!

Kindergarten: Outside a first grader came up to a kindergarten student who was alone and asked, "Do you want to be friends?" The kindergartener happily responded, "Yes!" Then the first grader motioned for her to come along and play.

First grade: During recess, a first graders stopped another student from picking a flower from the ground. He explained that he learned in science class that plants need soil to get nutrients to survive. What a great real-world connection!

Second grade: Students completing their birdhouse/birdfeeder project and sharing what birds are attracted to their projects!

Third grade: ALL 3rd graders who took the FSA Reading test really stayed focused, asked for all questions to be signed, and used their extended time accommodation on both days. We are so proud of their effort! We also had fun learning about our community at Kids' Town Comes Alive: Candyland edition!

Fourth grade: Celebrating the graduation of our UNF intern.

Fifth grade: Learning about Earth Day and the different ways we can help save the planet. The students have shown a great understanding of the importance of conserving and preserving our planet. They have all come up with amazing examples and different ways they can implement change.

Learning Lab: Students talking about their reading and one student asking, "Do you want to know what chapter I'm on?"

Child Safety Matters

As you are aware, all students in the Deaf Elementary School participate in Child Safety Matters groups. They not only learn about personal safety; they are also taught digital safety rules. We talk about the fact that we never share personal information with someone we meet online. They are reminded to tell their parents if someone sends them inappropriate pictures or emails. Cyberbullying is discussed and we role-play ways to be assertive when others try to convince us to bully others online.

Please keep a close check on your child’s texts, emails, and other online activity. Some of our elementary students do not have the level of maturity needed when it comes to sending appropriate messages to others. It would be helpful if you let your child know your expectations for online behavior and that you will be monitoring their messages.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

Rhonda McCahill


Help Needed! Lost & Found is Overflowing!

The weather in St. Augustine is tricky! It can be chilly in the morning, but by afternoon, the sun is shining and recess gets hot! Students often take off their jackets and sweaters, and more often than not, leave them on the playground. You can help us by making sure your child's name, or even initials, are written somewhere inside the garment. We usually check the tag to see if we can identify the owner of a lost article of clothing, so it would be a great kindness if you could put a name there for us! THANK YOU!

Deaf Elementary Named a PBIS Model School!

The FSDB Deaf Elementary School celebrates being named a Model School from the Florida Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBiS) project.

This model school award is given for implementation of positive school outcomes and exemplifies the achievements of teachers,

staff and students.

Check out the video of our celebration here!

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Did you know that we have a new DES Facebook group? In order to enhance digital security for our students and their families, we are transitioning our school Facebook page to a private group, which affords us better screening and monitoring measures. If you would like to join the group, please click this link: Our goal is to post pictures and/or updates daily.

Title I Information

Our final Title I Parent Advisory Team/School Advisory Council meeting will take place in May. Stay tuned for details, and please reach out to Dr. Heidi if you would like to serve on this committee. We meet four times a year. This year, all meetings are held virtually through Microsoft Teams.

You should have received your Title One Handbook. Please take some time to review the Handbook and then sign and return the last page. We are so thankful for our Title I funding.

You should have also received an ASL dictionary and ASL flashcards provided by Title I funding. Please enjoy these materials during your family time, and help bridge ASL and English.

Title I, Part A is a component of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that provides supplemental funds to approved schools to meet educational goals, support professional development of staff and support parent engagement programs.

Parent Sign Language Classes!

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Things to Say to Your Child

Here are a few things you can say to your child to encourage discussion. Source:

  1. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  2. You are enough.
  3. It’s OK to be scared.
  4. Even if you make a mistake, you can fix it.
  5. Being kind does not make you weak.
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Opt-in for Skyward Text Alerts

FSDB encourages parents/legal guardians of enrolled students to regularly log onto the Skyward Family/Student Access portal to keep their contact information up-to-date.

Skylert (School Messenger) is the system that FSDB uses to send out automated phone calls, text messages and email notifications families for general purposes ann case of emergencies.

Opting in for automated Skylert text notifications makes it possible for FSDB to quickly inform families about situations that may impact their child/family (e.g., weather, safety and bus alerts) as well as other school-related information. To opt-in, text "Y" to 67587.

Cutie Patootie Picture of the Month!

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Want to contribute a Cutie Patootie Picture of the Month submission? Join, like, and share our FSDB Deaf Elementary School Facebook Group and let us know! But also know the competition is pretty tough because DES is FULL of Cutie Patooties!

Dr. Heidi's Virtual Office



FSDB Welcome Back 2020

Contact Us

DES Office

PH: 904-827-2520

VP: 904-201-4505

Health Care Center

PH: 904-827-2410

VP: 904-201-3910


PH: 800-992-8747

Vaill Hall (Dorm)

PH: 904-827-2806

VP: 904-201-4461

Parent Services

PH: 904-827-2212

VP: 904-201-4527

Campus Police

PH: 904-827-2315