by Lisa Fontana
Diamond Valley School in Alpine County is eligible to apply for the distinguished school award, an honor given to schools exhibiting educational excellence by the state of California. Schools are eligible to apply only if they meet several criteria including making adequate yearly progress toward federal student achievement guidelines.
The state additionally requires that schools make progress along a continuum from 200 to 1,000 points with the goal to reach and remain above 800. Diamond Valley has made steady progress toward target goals and is, for the third time, eligible to apply for recognition for their improvement efforts. The school received the award in 2000 and 2004.
Diamond Valley School, located at one end of Diamond Valley, along a popular bike loop beside the Carson River, is home to about 100 kindergarten through eighth-grade students. These children live in the communities of Woodfords, Hope Valley, Hung-A-Lel-Ti Washoe Community, Mesa Vista, Markleeville, and Kirkwood in the vast, but sparsely populated, Alpine County.
The school's staff consists of six classroom teachers, who work alongside a speech pathologist, a special education teacher, reading specialist who also teaches music, a band teacher, instructional aides, after-school program leader, before-school kindergarten teacher, new principal, and also new this year, a physical education teacher.
A technology department, cook, activities director, librarian, district office and secretarial staff, and bus drivers (who double as the maintenance crew) support classroom instruction. With a student population as small as this one, staff members know all of the students.
They work together to help every student succeed, consistently discussing the needs of the children and trying whatever it takes to improve learning.
Another key to the success of Diamond Valley School is the central role the school plays in the community.
Kindergarten children are provided a place for a transition into their school day, which doesn't start until 10:25 a.m., in a Montessori environment, allowing them to catch the morning school bus, eat breakfast at school, and enjoy a few stories and self-selected activities before their kindergarten class starts.
This program is coordinated with the curriculum of the school and the Early Learning Center. All students are invited to remain after school (and a third or more do remain each day) to complete their homework, receive tutoring, play a spatial relationships computer-based math game, study dance or art, and even learn to ride a unicycle. They are also taught about leadership with a program called Peace Builders that is an integral part of both school and after school hours. A late bus takes the children home at 5 p.m.
The school's computer lab offers access to students and staff. The library, where pictures of native elders watch over the children, is the heart of the school.
A close partnership with the county brings a part time nurse and counselor to the school.
Young adults from the Woodfords Indian Colony provide needed aide and tutoring support.
Students from Woodfords High School, housed in a portable building on the lower field, walk up to help out in classrooms or raise funds at movie nights.