It's Elementary - DES Newsletter

October 2020

Dates to Remember

October 30 - End of first quarter

November 20 - Students leave for Thanksgiving vacation

November 29 - Boarding students return

November 30 - Classes resume

Dr. Heidi's Happenings

We are having so much fun in Deaf Elementary School! Students are working hard in both our Brick and Mortar (BAM) and Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) programs. We are welcoming some students back from the ILE to BAM, and love seeing them celebrate reuniting with friends and staff members. Safety protocols to maintain wellness are still in place, and we're all so proud of the students and how they follow the protocols without complaint. Our Safety Patrollers are taking on more responsibilities and are modeling The Big Three, Respect, Responsibility, and Cooperation.

We completed Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing this month. Students worked hard and tried their best on the tests, and teachers conferenced with students to talk about growth and areas of opportunity. Students are engaged in creating their own learning goals, and talking about their performance helps them determine their progress in meeting goals. We also have several students who have improved their reading and moved up a level. We celebrate these students by having students paint a flower on our "Growth Wall" in the Gore Hall lobby.

Also this month, we learned about bike safety with Officer Anderson. After taking the bicycle safety course, every student received their own helmet! As you can imagine, the bikes in Kids Town have become a VERY popular attraction both during recess and after school in the dorm!

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.

A Note From Deaf Department Principal Angela Saunders

I am so grateful for our FSDB students, families and teachers for such a positive start for the school year. Given all of the challenges of these unique times, the responses during this first quarter have exceeded expectations. Everyone has come together so well to ensure the best learning environment for our students. Our teachers have learned to provide instruction while having students in the classroom and at home (no easy task). We have had an increase in the number of students returning to campus for instruction. Our students have done well complying with the extra pandemic restrictions and they understand the importance of staying safe. They are resilient, and I am so proud of them!

Given that things are going well currently, FDSB is not planning to initiate any protocol changes related to our pandemic processes and procedures at this time. We look forward to ongoing success and we are grateful for the opportunity to work with each of our students. Thank you, parents and guardians, for continuing to entrust us with your child. We are grateful for your partnerships as we continue forward together.

Too Good Not to Share!

A teacher sent this email to Dr. Heidi, and it is just too good not to share!

I've been a "cheerleader" for the past couple of weeks for a 5th grader as she is trying SO HARD to learn how to ride a two-wheel bicycle! She has been persevering through her frustration over not being able to do it, and she is sooooo determined to make it happen! Yesterday, after receiving her helmet, she showed me that for the first time, she was able to coast (without using the pedals) for a short distance, which I had encouraged her to do as a first step a couple of weeks ago. That gave her the confidence to try using the pedals again, and she managed to get both feet up and push them 1-2 times! She was SUPER excited! She said, "I feel like I'm in a dream!" It's been so fun to watch her and cheer her on, and she is so very close to getting it!

An Invitation from Dr. Heidi! (she looks lonely)

Are you..

  • A parent or family member of a student in Deaf Elementary School (DES)?
  • A person who wants to have say in our school goals or spending priorities?
  • Available for a one (or at least no more than two) hour meeting each quarter (only four times per year!)?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions…or even two of these questions…Dr. Heidi wants to hear from you! Please join our DES School Advisory Council/Title I Parent Advisory Team! Reach out to or (904) 827-2520 (voice or text).

We had our first quarterly meeting last week and it was GREAT!

Updates from Vaill Hall

Our students in Vaill have enjoyed the “Kids Town”, riding bikes, walking the sidewalk, and visiting the different little buildings. This month Officer Michelle Anderson will be covering bike safety with our students. The Vaill 1 East girls have started a garden. The Garden Center was happy to share one of its raised planting beds with us. So far, we have added broccoli, cauliflower, and a pineapple. The girls learned how to dig the hole, measure it to make sure it was deep enough, how to transfer a plant from pot to garden safely, and how to backfill the plant. We began our pineapple from a top and started it in water so the girls could see the roots beginning to grow before we planted it. They're very excited to see their plants grow!

If your child is a boarding student and you are planning on coming to school to pick them up on homegoing days, that may fall on a Thursday or a Friday, so please call the director of student life (DSL) office the day before to notify us of your plans so we can make all the necessary arrangements with the other offices on campus. Also, if you are planning for your child to be picked up by someone else, please call the DSL office to make those plans as well. We prefer to have advance notice so we can notify everyone. Please see the Parent-Student Handbook section called General Boarding Program Policies and Procedures on page 65. If you have any questions, please call or text 904-827-2600.

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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: One student felt left out of a group out on the playground and another student came up and encouraged her to come play with him.

First grade: The students learned about Constitution Day and made their own feather quills!

Second grade: Students worked on Halloween narrative stories, creating story outlines and video presentation of the story.

Third grade: Students asked real-world application questions about various occupations.

Fourth grade: Two students looked at an informational text and then found the locations of what they read about on the classroom map!

Fifth grade: Students worked collaboratively, including students who are learning at home. Group work has some students in school and others on the iPad!

Learning Lab: Students chatting with one another during Fun Friday, and keeping their ILE classmate involved.

Favorite Moments From Each Grade Level

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

Kindergarten: Students posing together after creating their fall crowns.

First grade: The kids are really getting into the swing of things as they learn their new routines and class expectations. They are doing great!

Second grade: Kids have moved up in their IRLA levels due to increasing their vocabulary. Parents keep practicing! Use our graphic organizers from class as well as good literature to review at home!

Third grade: Our students have been very excited to point out vocabulary words they are learning in class when they encounter them in things they are reading! One student was VERY excited to point out a word that she didn't really seem to understand as she was learning it but recognized in a story she was reading later AND signed it correctly!

Fourth grade: While the PBS drawing happened for 4th grade, students cheered for each other as the wheel spun and names were picked. Everyone was a good sport and very supportive!

Fifth grade: Special guests came to visit and told stories with a moral. We learned about honesty, problem solving, collaboration, and creativity.

Learning Lab: Students realizing they can make more words by manipulating letters used in high frequency words.

Poster contest for National School Bus Safety Week

National Bus Safety Week is quickly approaching - Oct. 26-30, 2020. This year's slogan is - Keep On Rolling - #safetystartswithyou. The centerpiece of National School Bus Safety Week is the poster contest. Students in grades K-12 can select artwork that depicts school bus safety-related themes and encourages and promotes school bus safety. The winning posters are used to promote safer school transportation for everyone.

Poster Contest Rules:

  • For brick and mortar students: poster designs should be made only on the 11x17 paper provided by the Transportation Department.
  • For ILE students: please e-mail your submissions to
  • Designs made may be drawn vertically or horizontally using crayon, felt pens, markers or colored pencils.
  • Poster designs may not incorporate any copyrighted characters or images (e.g., comic and television characters), photographs, and newspaper or magazine illustrations.
  • All participants must write their name (first and last), school, and grade on the back of the poster they are submitting.
  • Illustrations must be drawn in a positive approach, demonstrating proper school bus safety behaviors.
  • Entry deadline is Friday, Oct. 23, 2020 by noon.
  • All posters must be turned into the school’s office or sent electronically (ILE students) by the posted deadline. Transportation Staff will pick-up all submissions.

Gov. DeSantis Fills FSDB Board Seat

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced via news release that he's appointing June Ann LeFors to the FSDB Board of Trustees, bringing the board to its full complement. Pursuant to state statute, the board must consist of seven members who are selected by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Given the stakeholders FSDB serves and the need for diverse representation, one of the board's members is required to be a person who is blind/visually impaired and one is required to be a person who is deaf/hard of hearing. LeFors is an instructor for interpreter education at the University of North Florida. She previously spent 10 years as an American Sign Language specialist and a teacher in the FSDB Early Learning Center.

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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.

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FSDB Presidential Interviews and Public Board Meetings

The FSDB Board of Trustees will interview presidential finalists on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, followed by committee, workshop and regular meetings on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Agenda topics focus on matters pertaining to FSDB. All events take place in Moore Hall Center for Learning and Development, are open to the public and live streamed on the FSDB board meetings webpage. American Sign Language interpreters will be provided.

Members of the public are invited to address the board for up to three minutes per person. All public comments are limited to 45 minutes total. Public comment registration cards must be turned in no later than the start of each event. Important: Moore Hall CLD and second floor overflow seating is limited; face masks shall be worn when social distancing is not feasible. Individuals who do not plan to make public comment are strongly encouraged to view the above events via live stream.

For more information and links to view the livestream, visit the FSDB Board of Trustees Meetings webpage.

Campus Safety and Drill Notifications

FSDB takes a proactive approach to ensuring the safety and security of students and their families, staff members, volunteers, contractors and visitors. Our emergency preparedness efforts as well as response protocols are designed to prevent or reduce adverse impacts of potential or real critical incidents. FSDB has a comprehensive preparedness plan and protocols for a variety of crisis and non-crisis situations. Our intention is to provide a swift and decisive response to issues occurring that are not part of normal school operations which may result in one of the following:

  • Shelter in place – the action of seeking safety within the building that a person already occupies

  • Lockdown – ordered to contain an incident by controlling the movement of people on/off campus

  • Evacuation – the transfer of students and staff from the campus or a partial area of campus to a safe area off campus or a safe area within campus to mitigate or prevent injuries

  • Reunification – process by which students are released to their parents/guardians in the event that routine dismissal is not possible due to an emergency situation.

Florida schools are required to practice emergency response procedures by conducting practice drills throughout the academic year. FSDB has modified some of our drill procedures so that we may meet our requirements while maintaining social distancing and other health measures. If you arrive at FSDB campus during a drill, you may be asked to wait outside the campus until the drill concludes. If you are on the campus during a drill, you will not be able to leave the campus until the drill concludes. Parents/guardians will receive a Skylert notification typically the day of a drill (or night before depending on the time of the drill), specifying the type of drill and the time. Our next drill will be a campus-wide lockdown drill on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. Should you have any questions, please contact Lt. David Moore, school safety specialist, at 904-827-2315 or

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Florida Moves Up in National Ranking 

The Florida Department of Education recently shared that our state ranks 3rd in the nation for K-12 achievement according to a new 2020 Quality Counts report by Education Week. This is a move up from 4th in 2019 and the highest ranking ever in K-12 achievement for the Sunshine State. Florida’s K-12 achievement grade also improved to B-, which is higher than the nation’s grade of C. Florida outperformed the nation in 15 of the 18 K-12 achievement measures.

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!
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Parent Engagement Workshop

The second Parent Engagement Workshop (PEW) for the 2020-21 school year will be held on Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. via Zoom! We hope you can participate in this event. To join the meeting, visit:

Future workshops will be held on Dec. 4, Jan. 15, Feb. 12 and April 23. Be sure to add these dates to your calendar!

Dr. Heidi's Virtual Office



FSDB Welcome Back 2020
Hello from FSDB Deaf Elementary School

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