- Conejo Academy
We've Been Named One Of America's Healthiest Schools
Conejo Elementary School of Conejo Valley Unified School District is among the 406 schools nationwide to be named as America’s Healthiest Schools for the 2021-2022 school year. The recognition, awarded by Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a leading children’s health organization, celebrates schools’ dedication to supporting the health and well-being of students, staff, and families.
This year, schools were recognized in nine categories, including:
Strengthening Social-Emotional Health & Learning, presented in collaboration with Harmony SEL at National University and Kaiser Permanente
Cultivating Staff Well-Being, presented in collaboration with Harmony SEL at National University and Kaiser Permanente
Increasing Family & Community Engagement, presented in collaboration with Kohl’s
Conejo Elementary School prioritized healthy policies and practices despite numerous challenges resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They have continued to sustain and promote good health and well-being this school year. Conejo Elementary proudly accepted awards in the following three areas:
Collaborating with families/caregivers to identify needs related to social drivers of health. Conejo routinely connects families to relevant support and resources with their ELAC meetings, newsletters, phone calls, flyers and meetings with the principal and staff. Throughout the year, hosting these family meetings allows families to socialize and also gives the staff an opportunity to share school updates and provide information regarding school-based resources. Conejo also offers a literacy education program to parents and children through the Latino Family Literacy Project. Parents learn strategies for how to help their children become stronger readers, as well as developing their English language skills and bi-cultural development. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Conejo quickly saw a need for educating families in how to access information on-line. By providing technology training for families, students and care-givers further increased access to school information and community resources.
Nutrition and Food Access - Conejo Elementary collaborates closely with CVUSD Child Nutrition and community organizations to address food access for students, staff and caregivers. Their collaboration with Adelante offered “Open Air Markets” on the weekends for families to pick up food and other much-needed resources, free of cost. Conejo implements strategies that maximize participation in school meal programs, such as offering multiple choices of breakfast and lunch, as well as offering all meals free to students, regardless of income (therefore, eliminating the stigma associated with being a “free lunch student”). Conejo’s principal, Erica Ultreras, and the child nutrition director have a quick communication/feedback process which fosters rapid solutions to food access needs. “A change we made this year increased students' access to breakfast. Breakfast is served before school; however, many students who arrived late or aren't hungry yet, were hungry before lunch. This impacted their focus and engagement in class.” The principal worked with the Child Nutrition Director and the Cafeteria Manager to implement a “Grab and Go” breakfast option. Students have the choice of grabbing breakfast items from the cafeteria before school starts and storing the items until recess. In addition, each class receives a bag of breakfast items that are available to students at recess. This allows more students to participate in the breakfast program even if they are not hungry or on campus during the official breakfast hours. Furthermore, if a student ever complains of being hungry throughout the day, a snack is offered to them in class or in the office.
Social-Emotional Health & Learning
Conejo Elementary is a Leader In Me school. They use the 7 Habits of Happy Kids to drive their school’s social-emotional learning, environment and culture. They have designated calming spaces available for students to use when needed, throughout the campus, that are developmentally appropriate and accessible to all students. Students are also provided calming space strategies and examples to families during school closures. Conejo’s counseling office also has a calming corner that is easy to use that helps students identify feelings, coping skills, and a check out system to identify if they are ready to return to class. Additionally, Conejo’s counselors provide lessons based on the Sanford Harmony SEL curriculum scope and sequence content to address social emotional needs of students at our school. They support classroom needs, create surveys to assess teacher confidence in using lessons, obtain feedback and adjust to student needs. Students are set up for success as teachers proactively provide lessons from the “7 Habits”, utilize CHAMPS to establish expectations, and use restorative practices and self-reflection to identify moments of struggle for themselves. Overall, Conejo’s SEL has united their school and has provided all with a greater community emotional awareness and support system.
“As we enter what is predicted to be another challenging school year, we commend the awardees for their resourcefulness and dedication to addressing the acute health and well-being needs of students, staff, and families,” said Kathy Higgins, chief executive officer at Healthier Generation. “This cohort of schools exemplifies the fortitude required to serve current and future generations with empathy and care.”
Healthier Generation’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools remains one of the country’s longest-running, nationwide recognition programs honoring schools for achievements in supporting the whole health of students, teachers, and staff. Any school can connect with Healthier Generation to access trainings, resources, and technical assistance by visiting HealthierGeneration.org.
To view the complete list of awardees, visit HealthierGeneration.org/HealthiestSchools.
About Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a leading children's health organization that advances equitable whole child health. Driven by our passion to ensure that every mind, every body, and every young person is healthy and ready to succeed, our work has reached over 31 million young people across the country. To learn more and help make a difference, visit HealthierGeneration.org and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.