THE CHALKBOARD: Different days for first day of Petaluma schools

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Penngrove Elementary and Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley, both on year-round academic schedules, kicked off the new school year welcoming students back to campus on July 17. Old Adobe School District officially started classes yesterday, Aug. 14, as did St. Vincent Schools and the majority of Petaluma City schools. Wilson School begins on Aug. 19; Waugh School District begins Aug. 20; Liberty School and Cinnabar Charter begin Aug. 21; and The Springhill School begins its year on Aug. 26. It now includes a new middle school for fifth through eighth graders) on North Webster Street.

Since the opening of school, the Penngrove Panthers have been rocking and rolling by starting each weekday morning with a school-wide playground dance party to get energized for the day!

During the summer break, Cinnabar School staff has been busy with overseeing an extensive playground remodel and new culinary kitchen/classroom. Principal Sandy Doyle shares, “Cinnabar is a STEAM school integrating and offering science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. This year our STEAM program will also include culinary arts and dance. Along with our core curriculum, STEAM is an exciting and engaging educational program designed to set all students up for academic success while providing fun and dynamic enrichment opportunities.”

When Miwok Valley School students returned to school on Aug. 14, not only was their teacher there, but also Plastic Pat. Plastic Pat was created by fifth graders from all the plastics they used in one week. The creative installation is designed to inspire other students to use less plastic in their daily lives, notes principal Mary Reynolds. During the 2018-2019 school year, Miwok students composted all their lunchtime food waste. They recycled milk cartons, classroom paper, plastic, bottles and metals. Through this effort, the school diverted an incredible 516 cubic yards from the local landfill. Teacher Heidi Doughty says, “We want the students to see what 3 cubic yards looks like, so they can visualize the 516 cubic yards of trash we saved!” So along with Plastic Pat, the campus houses three huge cubic yard boxes, each painted in a bright primary color and adorned with positive slogans, representing the students’ efforts last year. Reynolds is excited about the engaging learning opportunities that await Miwok students. She said, “This year promises to bring strong community and parent partnerships as we further strengthen home-school- community relationships that are critical to ensuring the success of all students. Miwok is making a difference.” Last year, Miwok Valley Charter School became an environmentally-focused school. In addition to engaging with science curriculum about the changing planet, all students participate in hands-on learning by composting, recycling, and gardening. Four vermiculture (worm) bins are managed by the students, who experience decomposition firsthand.

Petaluma City School District is hosting a community forum on Saturday at the Lucchesi Community Center. Everyone is invited to participate in an interactive study session with the board and district leadership. Please join us anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for an hour or more to share your thoughts in a small group setting. Lunch will be provided. Topics of discussion will be inclusitivity, diversity, equity; arts integration; revenue generation; the 21st century high school; district-stakeholder communication; and school improvement. All topics will be discussed at each session. Contact Ashley Cottonwood ( at PCSD for a schedule of sessions.

Petaluma Kiwanis Club is accepting applications for annual “Garvey Grants” classroom microgrants. Applications will be accepted from Petaluma area teachers until Sept. 6. “Garvey Grants” posthumously honor long-time Kiwanis member Terence Garvey and his commitment to service and education. Teachers may contact their school district office to request the required one-page application or email Since 2015, Petaluma Kiwanis has awarded more than 200 grants for a total of $87,000 to local teachers. Approximately 60 percent of all applicants receive some level of funding. The average grant awarded in 2018 was $300. Visit to download application documents or email

The Petaluma Educational Foundation’s annual Impact Grant application is due by Oct. 1.  The program supports requests up to $15,000 per grant for curriculum-based grants in a wide range of academic focus areas, including literacy and language arts, math and science, humanities, fine arts, vocational education/life skills, athletics, nutrition plus the PEF technology initiative and STEAM instruction. Contact Katy Verke at 778.5063 or for more information or visit, click the Impact Grant tab and download the 2019 application.

(Maureen Highland is a Petaluma mother and executive director for the Petalunma Educational Foundation. She can be reched at

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