Tag Archives: disney elementary

Disney Elementary First Grader Battles Rare Kidney Cancer

Walt Disney Elementary School first-grader Jacob Angel is like most boys his age, inquisitive about people and the world around him, with a bright smile and an engaging manner. During a visit to McCambridge Park on Sunday, Jacob played with the family dog Bruno while his younger brother, Thomas, age 6, ran about with boundless energy.

“He’s starting to feel better and get his energy back,” said Jacob’s mother, Diana. The Angel family were visiting the park after going out for a pancake breakfast.

“Jacob’s doing really good right now,” added father Tony. “He’s reached a point in his therapy where he takes a rest from the weekly chemotherapy injections. He even gained a pound last week.”

Jacob Angel with his family, mother Diana, father Tony and brother Tomas. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Jacob Angel with his family, mother Diana, father Tony and brother Thomas. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Catcher Jacob Angel loves baseball. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Angel)

Catcher Jacob Angel loves baseball. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Angel)

Jacob was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer, Stage 3 Nephroblastoma, on March 2, after his father noticed a hard lump on the boy’s belly right below his rib cage. After some scans and tests, seven-year-old Jacob underwent surgery right away to remove the Wilms Tumor. The affected kidney, a nearby adrenal gland and six lymph nodes were taken out during the operation.

He began rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to kill possibly remaining cancer cells. The therapy makes him weak and he vomits frequently after the treatments. Jacob has lost 10 pounds since the diagnosis, weighing just 45 pounds when his most recent round of chemo ended.

While Jacob and his family have been dealing with the impact and treatment of his cancer, the Disney Elementary community has rallied around the family. A youcaring.com webpage was created to raise funds to help offset co-pays for the $78,000 surgery, the radiation and chemotherapy treatments and other medical expenses. As of June 12, the website has raised $2300 for the family, largely by donations from the Disney Elementary community.

Inquisitive Jacob Angel explores an airplane cockpit. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Angel)

Inquisitive Jacob Angel explores an airplane cockpit. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Angel)

“Walt Disney Elementary is a small school with a personal and family-like atmosphere,” commented Marieke Beeler, Walt Disney Elementary Booster Club President. “We want to help the Angel family be able to focus on the hard work of getting well, rather than the stress of paying for treatment.”

“The wonderful thing about the youcaring.com platform is that 100 percent of the donations go to Jacob and his family,” Beeler added. “No one should have to go through something like fighting cancer alone and as a school we stand behind Jacob and his family. We want nothing more than welcoming a healthy Jacob back to school in August.”

“It is so heartwarming how his friends love him and put a smile on his face,” Tony mentioned. “His little brother is taking this very hard, too.”

Jacob Angel's Disney Elementary friends show their support. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Angel)

Jacob Angel’s Disney Elementary friends show their support. (Photo Courtesy of Tony Angel)

Tony also pointed out some additional members of the Burbank community who’ve supported the family. Jacob’s first-grade classmates, along with their teacher Terri Daou, held a lemonade stand sale and raised $350 for the family.

“Marieke Beeler set up the website and has been so amazing. She has been wonderful,” he said. “Principal Kistler was so amazing and helpful, continuing Jacob’s education in a safe manner by arranging home schooling for the remainder of the year.”

“Jacob was to play for the D Backs Burbank Park and Rec coach pitch team,” Tony added. “Coach Jenny donated his uniform and lets him play when he has the energy. That means so much to him.”

Jacob’s Nephroblastoma is being treated by a Los Angeles doctor who’s performed over 50 surgeries for the cancer. The overall prognosis for complete remission is 85 percent, according to Tony.

Seven-year-old Jacob Angel, with his younger brother Tomas (left), is fighting a rare kidney cancer. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Seven-year-old Jacob Angel, with his younger brother Thomas (left), is fighting a rare kidney cancer. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“As long as Jacob has no setbacks, he will attend second grade with all his friends,” Tony said. “We are looking forward to him going into second grade.”

Jacob turns eight in August. His brother Thomas, who is 18 months younger, will enter first grade when school resumes.

Jacob will have a CT scan next week and resume chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks until early September.

The youcaring.com website publishes periodic updates on Jacob’s progress and continues to accept donations to help the family out with medical expenses for 74 more days.

Almost half of the $5000 fundraising goal has been met, and anyone in the community can donate online.

BUSD Elementary Spanish Dual Immersion Program Poised For Growth

Due to increasing interest in the Burbank Unified inaugural Spanish Dual Immersion program, district officials plan to offer two Kindergarten classes and at least one first grade class for the 2014-15 school year. Director of Elementary Education Dr. Tom Kissinger leads two informational meetings for parents on the Spanish Dual Immersion program at the BUSD offices; the English presentation will be held on Monday, February 10, and the Spanish presentation on Tuesday, February 11.

“We want to make sure people understand every aspect of the Spanish Dual Immersion program before they commit,” commented Kissinger. “We have an overwhelming interest in this program and we will have to have a lottery for the classes.”

The district may have enough interest to add an additional first grade class for 2014-15. If that is the case, Kissinger said he would seek Board of Education approval to expand the program to that extent. If the Spanish Dual Immersion program continues to be successful, Kissinger has indicated the possibility of starting an Armenian Dual Immersion program in the 2015-16 school year.

BUSD logoThe Spanish Dual Immersion Kindergarten program is housed at Disney Elementary and is populated by approximately 20-25% of children whose school of residence is Disney. The rest are drawn from throughout the district and permits.

Of the 29 students in the pilot Kindergarten program, the majority are English speakers and only three are totally fluent in Spanish, with four more who understand Spanish, Kissinger explained in a recent report to the Board of Education. The goal is to have a 50-50 ratio of fluent English and fluent Spanish speakers in each class. To this end, district officials have done more community outreach about the program and Kissinger feels confident the 50-50 ratio will be obtainable for the 2014-15 school year.

In the recent presentation to the School Board, parents of the children in the class, Disney Principal Melissa Kistler and Kindergarten bilingual teacher Juliana Sanchez all spoke in glowing terms about the Spanish Dual Immersion program.

“It’s a smashing success. It’s a very bright and enriching environment,” Kistler told the Board of Education. “It’s filled with positivity and the teacher is well-organized and highly effective.”

Sanchez described the daily activities of the class to the School Board members and explained that at the beginning of the year, comprehension was very challenging for the students. Eighty percent of the class is taught in Spanish and 20% in English for the daily Language Arts study.

“It’s incredible to see how far they’ve come in just a few months,” Sanchez said. “Now they know our routines and, for the most part, understand what I am saying.”

The future plan is for Kindergarten to be taught 90% in Spanish and 10% in English, first grade 80% Spanish and 20% English, second grade 70% Spanish and 30% English and third grade 60% Spanish and 40% English. By fourth grade, the target 50% Spanish and 50% English language usage will be reached.

Photo By Lisa Paredes

Photo By Lisa Paredes

“Principal Kistler, the staff and the curriculum specialist at Disney have provided excellent support,” added Kissinger. “Parent volunteers work in the classroom and are well-utilized by the in-class aide.”

As the program adds more classes, more rooms will be needed and Kistler has a plan to use existing classrooms on campus, Kissinger told the School Board. The district is planning to form the classes by May 2014. The lottery for class spaces will begin February 10 and end April 11.

Each class costs approximately $110,000 per year to fund and a six-year program, with one class per grade, would eventually cost the district $660,000 annually. With two classes per grade, the cost would double to 1.2 million dollars.

In the long-term, Disney Elementary could become a language magnet school, but district officials also want to continue traditional classes for those who don’t want to participate in the Dual Immersion program. At the January 16 meeting, School Board members and Kissinger talked about the need for a long-term plan and ways to integrate middle and high school language programs.

“The benefit of this program is only enhanced if we can continue this through grade 12,” commented Board of Education member Larry Applebaum.

“We have had a significant number of our students who did not stay in this district because our neighboring schools offered this option,” BUSD Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz said at the meeting.

“We have a need and parents want more classes like the Dual Immersion program and we’re going to try and fill that need,” concluded Kissinger.

More information on the Spanish Dual Immersion program for primary grades can be found on the BUSD website or by contacting the district offices at 818-729-4401.