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Rowland Unified School District To Kindergarteners: You’ve Got Mail 

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Noah Fonseca, 5, cuddles his toy elephant, Mini Mabel. (Courtesy of Maria Fonseca)
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Last spring, kindergarten teacher Ashley McGrath went to the Rowland Unified School District with a question:

Can we send a tiny elephant to 900 kids?

With the help of almost every department in the district, a boost from federal funding and a little creativity, the answer was yes.

The toy elephants, which stand in as reading partners for students learning from home, are just one of the items the San Gabriel Valley district has mailed twice a month to each of its kindergarteners since the start of the school year. The packages also include books, pens, paper, and other little surprises tied to the curriculum.

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“I love the fact that the school has worked with us, getting them the tools that they need,” said mom Maria Fonseca. The little elephant “Mini Mabel” has become her son Noah’s constant companion.

“He actually sleeps with it. He goes outside and plays with it. He pretends like she's talking, so he'll make a voice like she's talking,” Fonseca said.

After the family dog destroyed the plush pachyderm, there was a funeral. McGrath, who is Noah's teacher, sent him a second Mini Mabel shortly after.

It’s the collaboration and communication that’s helped reassure Fonseca her son will be prepared for first grade.

“It can't work one way,” Fonseca said. “The teacher can’t do everything and the parent can’t do everything.”

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