Capistrano Unified Principals engage students virtually during COVID-19 closures

By Elysse James

Students in Capistrano Unified are staying connected in a time of social distancing with help from technology and their fun-loving, creative principals.

Principals and teachers from schools such as Don Juan Avila Middle School and John Malcom Elementary are connecting with kids through social media, and are keeping the kids engaged with ideas of things to do at home — John Malcom Principal Laurie Lowy gave a whole host of ideas in her Instagram video — and issuing challenges such as Don Juan Avila Principal Dr. Manoj Mahindrakar’s request for kids to share videos of their pets doing their best trick and sharing with the school community.

Castille Elementary School Principal Laura Lyon walks viewers through the school to check in on the classroom animals.

Principal Curt Visca of Capistrano Home/Virtual School hopped online with some distance learning tips from students, teachers, and staff who regularly do distance learning to help students do their best while at home.


Tijeras Creek Elementary School Principal Diann Buckingman reads the book “My Lucky Day” by Keiko Kasz to students and her adorable dog, Gidget.


Wood Canyon Elementary School Principal Paul Foucart engages students with a live radio show, complete with tunes, jokes, and a laugh track!

Reilly Elementary School Principal Sharla Pitzen leads students in a virtual flag salute.

Wagon Wheel Elementary School Principal Principal Jean Grabowski reads a few pages of the book “If…” by Sarah Perry.

As Grabowski says, “There is one thing we know for sure and that is that though our classroom doors are closed, schooling at Wagon Wheel will continue, it’s just going to look differently.”

Over at Esencia K-8 School, Principal Josh Wellikson held a read-along of “When I Grow Up” by Weird Al Yankovic.

“When we opened our doors in 2018, we committed to building a culture where caring and connecting was a non-negotiable. Since we cannot be in the same area we are going to have to find different ways to connect,” Wellikson said.


Vista del Mar Middle School Principal Michelle Benham opened her greeting to students and parents by wishing a happy birthday to those whose birthdays had passed, and those with birthdays in the coming days.

“I know this is kind of a strange time,” she said, “and its not so fun always staying indoors, but I want you to make the best of it because you are really doing what is right for all of us and keeping everyone healthy by staying inside. While you are home, I want you to reconnect with your family and realize what a wonderful gift it is to have time as a family.”


Bathgate Elementary School Principal Jayne Martin told her students that teachers are busy getting their lessons together for when school resumes next week.

“Just know, we are all in this together,” Martin said. “I hope that you are staying busy, having fun, but most importantly you’re staying safe and staying healthy because that really is the most important thing.”

See more principal, teacher, and student engagement videos by following CUSD Insider on YouTube.

Learn more about what Capistrano Unified principals and teachers are doing to stay connected with their students during school closures by following @capounified on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Don’t forget to visit for all the latest news!

More about how Capistrano Unified continues to prepare for and prevent COVID-19: 

Capistrano Unified serves lunch, breakfast to 6,705 kids and counting

Social distancing for kids in the age of COVID-19, Capistrano Unified shares resources

Capistrano Unified serves more than 1,000 free meals during COVID-19 school closure

Capistrano Unified offers students free curbside lunches during COVID-19 school closures

Capistrano Unified Closes Schools Amidst Global Coronavirus Concerns

No coronavirus cases in Capistrano Unified; district prepares

Sharing is caring!