Saturday, July 20, 2013


See previous story on this school HERE.

Students at school that opens next week will try out some new concepts
By Caroline Dipping
JULY 18, 2013

Principal Dan Winters describes himself as Camarena’s CEO, or chief encouragement officer.

About 900 students are enrolled in Enrique Camarena Elementary School, which opens next week in Otay Ranch. hool!]

CHULA VISTA — When the new Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School opens next week, one of the first things students will learn is that they can write on their classroom walls and desks. And they won’t get sent to the principal’s office because it was he who led the charge to make it possible.

The walls of the 36 classrooms are swathed in a special paint that mimics a whiteboard, where pen markings easily wipe away with a dry cloth. Student desks are also of a durable fabrication that can withstand the punishment of spelling tests and math calculations.

“The concept is that you want to use the materials you have,” said Principal Dan Winters. “I mean, talk eco-friendly.

“Think of all the paper you don’t need to use. When kids do some work that needs to be saved, they can take a picture of it with their digital device.”

Welcome to Camarena Elementary, the first new campus to be built in the Chula Vista Elementary School District since 2007. Where chalkboards and text books are so last century and digital devices such as iPads, Chromebooks and Android tablets will be the tools to help students, particularly those in the upper grades, learn their core subjects.

Winters, 50, has been in the Chula Vista district nine years, most recently as principal of Salt Creek Elementary. In January, he was selected to be Camarena’s inaugural principal, a role he has embraced wholeheartedly.

Describing himself as the school’s CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer), Winters said he wants to create among his handpicked staff a professional, collaborative culture like Google and Facebook where everyone works together. With literacy as the foundation, the curriculum will include elements of project-based learning, dual immersion, and technology.

Winters’ vision for staff, students and community is so straightforward he fit it on his business cards: “We are a neighborhood school developing digital literacy in a multilingual, creative environment.”

“It starts with literacy,” he said. “It is still the foundation, and common core standards are coming next year and they give credence to the fact primary literacy is still how we do things.

“And digital means literacy in our current environment whereby kids learn how to use digital tools effectively to get information to share and which to communicate.”

Although it has yet to crack a single textbook, digital or otherwise, Camarena Elementary is already poised to do a booming business. Located in the Otay Ranch Village 11 area — at 1650 Exploration Falls Drive, to be precise — the 11.85-acre campus has capacity for 975 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Currently, 900 are enrolled.

The school district purchased the property for $2.7 million in 2008 but did not have the money to build. It wasn’t until last spring that the district was able to break ground, the estimated $30 million construction costs coming from CFD/Mello-Roos special tax assessments.

Also last spring, the school board approved the Camarena name for the school to commemorate the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was kidnapped and killed in 1985 while on assignment in Mexico. By November, the ceremonial last beam was placed in position during a particularly festive “topping out” ceremony, where it was noted that contractor Balfour Beatty Construction was ahead of schedule.

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