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By Collin Breaux

Taking over a campus from another private school is already a challenge—during a pandemic, even more so.

For Fairmont Schools, though, they rose to the challenge and have provided students educational opportunities while not putting them in danger during the COVID-19 health crisis.

With the school year now over, campus director Dana Vasquez reflected on the unique start for their new San Juan Capistrano private school location—previously helmed by Saddleback Valley Christian School—during an interview with The Capistrano Dispatch.

“It was a pretty heavy time with COVID,” Vasquez said.

Temperature checks and plexiglass became standard on the Oso Road campus, and the school received a waiver for in-person instruction for elementary grades in August shortly after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Kids became accustomed to the new school and got used to wearing masks on campus. Other grade levels eventually came on campus for in-person learning, and there were no campus-wide spreads of COVID-19 despite some outside cases.

Parents and teachers frequently communicated about possible exposure to the virus, and a counselor worked with students who had anxiety about returning to the classroom and other mental health issues, Vasquez said.

Fairmont was eventually able to have basketball games on campus with limited crowds and other safety measures, Vasquez said.

Fairmont Schools rose to the challenge when opening their new San Juan Capistrano campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Schools.

“Parents felt really safe leaving their students with us,” she said.

Fairmont’s San Juan Capistrano campus has reportedly gone from 75 initial students to more than 200. Vasquez attributes the growth to word-of-mouth.

Fairmont Schools wants to grow its athletic program and has been working with The Treigning Lab—a gym in Placentia that works with MMA fighters and other athletes—for its program and events for student athletes, including a recent wrestling clinic that featured Olympians Kyle Snyder and David Taylor and world and national champions Bo Nickal and Anthony Cassar.

Fairmont’s athletic program works on strength and conditioning, and has former UFC fighter and accomplished wrestler Mark Muñoz as its wrestling coach.

Vasquez said their STEM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math) staff is amazing as well, and the school will look toward increasing robotic, surf, and equestrian student clubs.

“We felt embraced by the community here,” Vasquez said.

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