On their last day of school, students from DeDiego, Duprey and Von Humboldt Elementary Schools came together not to dwell on an ending, but to celebrate a new start.
On Monday, approximately 1,000 students, many of them with their parents, gathered at DeDiego to meet and get to know each other in an informal setting. Prior to this cultural integration event, the students had communicated as pen-pals and had crossed paths on walking field trips, but this was the first time that all three schools had come together in one place.
“It was a very exciting day for us,” said DeDiego Principal Alice Vera, “because it was the first step in our journey toward thinking of this group not as three schools, but as one student body.”
Each member of the DeDiego faculty was on hand to greet and speak with students and their families, and all newcomers to DeDiego were invited to participate in an interactive school tour.
“We used the entire school for these tours,” said Principal Vera. “Everyone had a chance to see the computer labs, library, lunchroom, and all other parts of the building, as there were activities happening in every room.”
The day also marked the unofficial opening of DeDiego’s new playground – a recreation area that includes modern play structures suitable for children in grades Pre-K – 8 and modified playground equipment for students with special needs.
“This was to be the first time any student had access to the new playground, so it was definitely something we wanted to share with all of our students at the same time,” said Principal Vera. “Along with the new equipment, the playground has lots of open space to run and play – perfect for the unstructured recess time that kids need.”
Other integration events planned for this summer include school beautification projects such as the planting of a new learning garden and the creation of a ceramic mural to be added to the school’s side wall.
“We’re not sure exactly how the mural will look yet, but we know we want all of our students to be a part of creating it, because we want them all to take ownership of the art,” said Principal Vera.
The goal of these events and activities is to ensure that by this fall, the start of school at DeDiego Elementary is just like the start of school anywhere in CPS.
“We want our students and their families to get to know each other now, because we want to begin seeing ourselves as one school, not three,” said Principle Vera. “And based on the success we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that our students, parents and faculty feel strongly about this sense of unity and are willing to do the work needed to make it happen.”