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A pandemic school picture day in Napa

A pandemic school picture day in Napa


Bel Aire Park students in Napa put on their finest to smile for the camera and have their school pictures taken in a safe, socially-distanced outdoor studio.

During a pandemic that’s upended almost every aspect of the school year, some school traditions are managing to continue.

Like picture day.

This Wednesday and Thursday several hundred students at Bel Aire Park Magnet School in Napa put on their finest to smile for the camera and have their school picture taken.

Tessa Yearnshaw, a second-grader at Bel Aire Park, said she likes picture day because “I like dressing nice and you can take off your mask.”

“We only do it once a year,” which makes it an important day, said Yearnshaw.

“My mom is always making me put something fancy on,” for picture day, said Ryan Macedo, also in second grade. However, “I forgot it was picture day,” he admitted on Thursday. Nevertheless, he waited in line to take a photo anyway. If you don’t get your picture taken, you probably won’t be in the yearbook, Macedo explained.

Picture day “is a special occasion,” said Hannah Johnson, second-grader. She was wearing a sparkly top that she also planned to wear for the school’s virtual talent show. “This is my prettiest outfit,” said Johnson.

“It’s fun taking pictures because you can remember the years that go by,” said Arianna Chavez, also in second grade.

The students, wearing masks and standing six feet apart, waited outside in small groups for their turn.

“Oh, man, I’m cold,” said one student, bouncing up and down to warm up.

“How’s my hair?” asked one student to another.

“Yours looks perfect,” the student replied.

“It’s nice to have something normal, a regular school event,” for the kids whose past two school years have been radically impacted by the pandemic, said school Principal Janine Burt.

When parents were asked if they wanted a picture day, the answer was yes. “We need this,” was the message parents gave Burt.

“We’re hoping to get most of our kids so we can still have a yearbook and so it feels like their class is together,” said Burt. Of course, there are some families that are reluctant to come to school for any reason right now. However, “It’s nice to do something that feels like ‘real’ school.”

For safety, pictures were taken in a temporary outside studio created by photographer Brent Kesterson of Lasting Memories.

Some schools don’t think they can have a picture day, but it’s possible to do it safely, he said. “We like to make things happen.”

Gathering each student’s photo “ticket,” Kesterwood efficiently posed and photographed the students one after another.

Students were allowed to remove their masks for the photo itself.

“Chin up, shoulders down,” Kesterwood urged the students.

To coax a smile he used a variety of encouragements:

“Say… ‘Hawaii.’”

“Say… ‘monsters.’”

“Say… ‘candy.’”

“Say… ‘unicorn.’”

Individual photos were taken but the traditional classroom group photo was not.

Burt said the students have done a great job of following COVID-19 safety guidelines, “Even our little ones.”

“They know safety is important. It’s amazing how resilient they’ve been.”

Watch now: CDC To Release School Reopening Guidelines

The president is working to come through on his promise to reopen most K-8 schools in his first 100 days. Today, the CDC is set to release guidelines for it.And the White House says those will guide its decisions. "We are eager to hear more about the clear science based guidelines for opening schools and how we can do that safely and how we can keep them open," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.  "The president will not rest until every school is open, five days a week. That is our goal."But earlier this week the White House clarified its goal.It said opening a majority of K-8 schools means more than 50% and it will count a school as reopen as long as there is in-person learning one day per week.Republicans say that's a low bar and have cited CDC data that spread of the virus is low in school settings with the right precautions in place. 

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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