BEMS Parent Newsletter - April 30, 2021

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Dates to Remember

May 3-4 - FSA ELA (4-8)

May 5-6 - FSA Math (3-8)

May 7 - FSA Math (6-8)

May 10 - NO SCHOOL

May 11 - Civics EOC (7)

May 11-12 - FSA Science (5, 8)

May 17 - Genre Study Poetry Presentations (BMS)

May 17-18 - Reading is Fun (BES)

May 19-20 - Reading is Fun (BMS)

May 21 - Deadline to register for STEM Camp

May 21 - Battle of the Books (BES)

May 28 - Battle of the Books (BMS)

May 31 - NO SCHOOL


From the principals banner

Ms. Fertsch's Files

Ellen Fertsch, Assistant Principal, BEMS

Greetings Families,

We are in our final quarter of school and working hard to finish strong. We continue to offer students opportunities for academic and social/emotional growth and celebrate along with you when they make strides in these areas. We look forward to their accomplishments and support them through their struggles and triumphs. There is a lot to share in this edition of our newsletter. We hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful things happening at our school, made possible by our shared desire to see all of our kids succeed. Wishing you all a wonderful and safe new month of May.

Guest Speaker Randall Crosby

On Friday, April 23rd, the Blind Elementary Middle School welcomed (virtually) guest speaker Randall Crosby. Mr. Crosby is an entrepreneur, business owner, husband, father, runner (triathlete, marathoner, 5ker), rock climber, Toast Master, and advocate--and that is just a short list. He is also a person who is totally blind.

Mr. Crosby’s presentation focused on overcoming obstacles, having a positive attitude, and business opportunities available to people who are visually impaired. He tailored his presentation for each of his audiences, which included elementary and middle school students and staff, as well as parents who attended a Parent Workshop on the same day.

Diagnosed at age 8 with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Mr. Crosby experienced a gradual loss of sight during his childhood and early adulthood that culminated in his becoming legally blind at the age of 27. At the time, he was working for the Marriott corporation and he and his wife were raising two small children. It was a devastating blow when he had to leave his career, a loss that was compounded by having to surrender his driver’s license. He experienced a total loss of independence and slipped into a period of self-doubt.

Enter the Randolph Sheppard Act.

Under the Randolph-Sheppard Program, state rehabilitation agencies recruit, train, license and place individuals who are blind as operators of vending facilities located on federal and other properties (blindmerchants.org). The program gives people who are blind “first rights” to employment in these facilities. This was a game changer for Mr. Crosby. In 1998, he and his wife began operating a snack bar at Kennedy Space Center, where Mr. Crosby met many people who influenced and encouraged him to do more, be more, and achieve more. And that is exactly what he did! After many years at Kennedy, Mr. Crosby went on to open a cafeteria for several years and presently manages a rest stop vending machine business here in Saint Augustine.

Mr. Crosby credits his success with having a positive attitude, trying new things, and cultivating lasting friendships. In addition to his career successes, Mr. Crosby is an avid runner and very active in outdoor endeavors. He is president of the local chapter of Toastmasters of Saint Augustine, where he regularly participates in public speaking contests. He is a member of the Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE). He resides in Saint Augustine with his wife Patty where he continues to stay active, involved, and enthusiastic about life. A favorite quote of Mr. Crosby’s is by author John Bingham: “The miracle is not that I finished this race; the miracle is that I had the courage to start it.”

Mr. Crosby donated three books from the series The Girl with the Robot Leg, written by a friend he met through running. The author, Emily Ann Harvey, was born with a malformed leg. She tells her true story of overcoming obstacles and learning to walk, run, and lead a rewarding and active life using her prosthetic robot leg. Mr. Crosby referenced the book when presenting to our elementary students. The books are available in both print and braille in our blind library. Mr. Crosby also left resources for reference regarding the Randolph Sheppard Vendors of Florida (RSVF), Toastmasters of Saint Augustine, and the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE).

It is so important for our students who are visually impaired and their families to interact with role models in the blind community who lead successful and rewarding lives. We were honored to have Mr. Crosby share his story.


Randolph Sheppard Vendors


Bureau of Business Enterprises


Blind Merchants




YouTube Video Reading of The Girl with the Robot Leg


Randall Crosby at the conclusion of the Turkey Trot race. He has blue running outfit, a medal around his neck, and bib 519

Southeastern Guide Dogs National Walkathon Day

FSDB is a signature sponsor of the Southeastern Guide Dogs National Walkathon Day on Saturday, May 1st. Grab your leash and get out there to celebrate by walking your four-legged friends. Your support makes an impact on people with vision loss, veterans with disabilities, and children with significant challenges.

We would love for you to share a picture of you and your furry friend this Saturday!

Make sure to include these hashtags: #NatWalkDay2021, #SEGuideDogs, #Progressive Pups

For more information and how to participate visit: https://www.guidedogs.org/national-walkathon-day-2021/

Student News Banner

POW and Fluency Challenge

Problem of the Week and Fluency Challenge is a weekly problem solving and fluency challenge for FSDB Students K-12. The goal of this campus wide project is to increase opportunities to engage in making sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Students submitting 5 solutions are awarded math games!

Please check out the new FlipGrid platform we are using to make problem solving opportunities more accessible and engaging!

Try them by following this link: https://flipgrid.com/mayo6758

Questions? please email Math Specialist, BJ Mayo, at mayob@fsdbk12.org

Many math themed board games spread out on a table

Small sampling of games students can choose after 5 solution submissions.

Tile graphic for the Math is Real Life page on Flip Grid. FSDB logo is in all 4 corners; various real life icons of math scattered throughout including clock, cake fractions, suspension bridge, and football flying

The image at top of flipgrid

Creative Writing

Hillary Norman, Technology Teacher

This month BMS students explored a leisure activity that also supports positive mental health, creative writing. Students first were introduced to the concept of poetry from their librarian and reading teacher. The poetry genre study guided students to explore and evaluate a book of poetry of their choice. The students were then instructed to type their favorite poem or create their own. Formatting a poem is very different then a journal entry or essay. Students practiced refining their skills in technology class to change alignment, font color/size/style, when to use bold/underline, and introduced alt codes for students to insert their own images. Alt codes are created through pressing a combination of numbers from the number pad along with the alt key. They are accessible with Jaws and offer numerous image options from chess pieces to miniature sports figures.

Writing often can be cathartic and the students enjoyed turning their writings into works of art. Please see attached for examples of student submissions.

Logan C. used the first line of another poem to inspire him to create a rhyming poem.

Derek M. wrote an original poem concentrating on rhyme and highlight color.

Alden P. wrote an acrostic poem on one of his interests, chess, creating an entire chess board at the bottom of his poem using alt codes.

Jasen M. wrote a free verse poem about his favorite topic, coding, experimenting with font size and color to make emphasis.

Big Mac by Logan Cake.It is beauty it is grace it’s a Big Mac in your face.  Don’t try eating quicker than your pace,  or you’ll find yourself out of your place.  Don’t expect me to clear some space,  When you go to grab another case.
words are highlighted in dark red. Love and Death.  By Derek Merced  One is Cupid and the other the Reaper.  Two gods with different features.  One has arrows and the other has a scythe.  But both of them are love and death for life.
Strategy is always red font whenever used. Chess icons are placed decoratively, in a structured manner. Strategy  By Alden Porter  C - Checkmate  ♘ H - Horse ♞  E - Enemy  S - Strategy ♖♚♖  S - Strateg
Various font styles are used. Various font sizes are used. Title is peach, coding is blue, it gets me in the mode is green. I Like to Code  By Jasen Mcdaniel  I like to do coding  It gets me in the mode.  It is my favorite kind of work.  That I like to learn  Learning about computers is very fun.  And writing programs, to make them run.
On the move with O & M banner
Two people stand before yellow truncated domes on a sidewalk

What Are Those Yellow Dots?

Jennifer Enache, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Have you ever wondered what those yellow dots at the end of the block are for? Those yellow dots or sometimes black dots are called truncated domes or detectable warning surface. Truncated domes are used as an indicator for people who are visually impaired that there is something in front of them that they need to be cautious about and pay close attention. The truncated domes are often placed at the end of a block, near driveways, at train stops, subways, bus stations, etc. When I teach students about truncated domes, I often tell the students that they are like parenthesis. There is usually an opening to the warning and a closing once they have past the second set of truncated domes. Truncated domes are not at every street crossing; so it is important for our students to learn about other clues in the environment to know when they are approaching an intersection.

According to TAPS, an orientation and mobility curriculum, Detectable Warning Surface (DWS) or Truncated Domes are a standardized surface feature (e.g. a series of truncated domes arranged in a grid pattern on a ramped curb cut) built in or applied to walking surfaces or other elements to warn pedestrians who are visually impaired of hazards on a path.

Orientation and Mobility in the Classroom

Jennifer Enache and Samantha Lang, COMS

On Saturday, April 17th, several teachers from the Blind Department participated in a class about Orientation and Mobility in the Classroom. Each teacher had hands-on opportunities to learn about sighted guide, room familiarization, tactile graphics, importance of verbal descriptions, and how sensory overload can affect our students. Each teacher used a blindfold while learning about each of these topics. Teachers loved the hands-on experiences and had a better understanding of Orientation and Mobility! The huge take away from class was, “Everyone has a piece of the puzzle to help our students become the independent, successful individuals they are destined to be!”

STEM Virtual 2021 Summer Camp

Come join our Virtual STEM Camp, hosted by Jennifer Enache and Samantha Lang! Complete fun STEM challenges and Expanded Core Curriculum Activities. Meet adults who are blind that have STEM careers! We are currently in the planning stages and will be providing more information soon. Mark your calendars for this exciting camp!

The camp is opened to current BES/BMS students who will be entering 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Students will receive all materials needed to complete projects the week before camp, and will interact with instructors online via the Microsoft TEAMS app.

Registration is FREE and closes May 21st! Registration links will be coming next week!


June 14th-18th STEM/ECC Virtual 2021 Summer Camp for students entering 4th, 5th, and 6th grade [completed grades 3/4/5]

June 21st-25th STEM/ECC Virtual 2021 Summer Camp for students entering 7th & 8th grade [completed grades 6/7]

STEM camp flyer June 14-18
STEM flyer June 21-25
Boarding information banner
Middle school girls gather around a long table. there are many rectangles of colorful, soft fabric waiting to be stuffed with polyester fiberfill stuffing. The girls are dressed in their pajamas and wearing their masks.

Students in Pod 229 have fun making dog beds to donate!

How NOT to eat spaghetti! The girls had a blast!!

Parent Services banner

APH ExCEL Camp 2021!

We are preparing for summer! So much has happened and the Virtual ExCEL Academy held 84 expanded core curriculum lessons during the school year to help supplement our students across the United States as well as to provide vision professionals ideas and give pre-service teachers an opportunity to see instruction in action. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is now preparing to offer the Virtual ExCEL Camp from mid-June through mid-August.

The Virtual ExCEL Camp will include a live hour at 2:00 ET, Monday through Friday, and is free to all registrants. Our target audience will continue to be students with vision loss. Also included are five at-home extension activities for the camp theme and with the camp supplies that will be sent to the student. The Virtual ExCEL Camp will be separated by age groups. We will continue to record these sessions so all have the opportunity to learn.

Please register your students with their needs and levels in mind. A grant from the Hearst Foundation is providing students from the United States of America an APH product that will be used during camp so we need registrations completed early! For students to receive items in time for camp, they must have registered for their session at least four weeks prior to the camp’s start date. Those that register after that date are still welcome to attend; we would suggest working with your teacher of students with visual impairments to procure the product for use during camp as all items are available through Federal Quota.

Parents, please register your student for one camp that matches their needs. As parents, you know if they would be more appropriately placed with the age level identified. If you are unsure, we suggest reaching out to your teacher of students with visual impairments. And remember, each student must be registered separately and must meet the definition of blindness in your state.

Week of June 21-25: Art Camp (4-6 years old)
Week of June 29-July 2: Mystery Camp (7-10 years old)
Week of July 12-16: STEM Camp (11-13 years old)
Week of July 19-23: Career Camp (12-22 years old)
Week of July 26-30: Space Sensory Camp (pre-symbolic learners)
Week of August 3-6: STEM Spanish Camp (Link to be provided soon; different ages on different days)

Please visit the Virtual ExCEL Camp page for information as we build up to the camp days. We hope to see many familiar names in the chat room during our Virtual ExCEL Camp. See you soon!

Leanne Grillot, and the whole team at APH

Scenes from BEMS banner
Ms. Bilancio’s class took a break from traditional learning today with a game of Scrabble. Scrabble teaches spelling, reading, vocabulary and math. We also had the opportunity for team building! We make learning fun in 2nd grade.
2 students sit at a table playing Scrabble. Some of the words they've used are five, zeb, and warps

Third graders wrote their own math stories using word problems

to depict special events in their lives

Jermeka and Billy work on area of a rectangle with unit squares.

Two students are sitting on the floor of a classroom with many popsicle sticks and some tape and rubber bands strewn around.

Building bridges of friendship while exploring weight and suspension in science.


Contact Us

BEMS Office

PH: 904-827-2739

Health Care Center

PH: 904-827-2410

VP: 904-201-3910


PH: 800-992-8747

Kramer Hall (Elementary Dorm)

PH: 904-827-2736

Cary White Complex (Middle School Dorm)

PH: 904-827-2851

Parent Services

PH: 904-827-2212

VP: 904-201-4527

Campus Police

PH: 904-827-2315