By Rachel Wulff

VACAVILLE (CBS13) — Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen schools and students struggling to maintain educational standards with distance learning protocols, but one school in Solano County has found a way.

A celebration unfolded at Willis Jepson Middle School in Vacaville, complete with the district’s only mariachi band, after the school was recognized by the state as a “School to Watch.” The honor is based on academic excellence, organizational structure and social equity.

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“It’s hard enough to do this in regular times, but during a pandemic it’s been crazy,” a school official said.

When the pandemic hit and students went to distance learning, the school began to rely on two learning hubs to keep students not making the grade up to speed.

“And it’s a really good mentorship where a staff member has a small group of kids and they are someone that loves them and cares for them and really pushes them to academically excel,” Principal Ana Farina said.

James Yeo started going a year ago after a teacher suggested it.

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“It just felt really comfortable, not only comfortable, safe, and a really good learning environment because when I’m at home, I can’t really ask for help because my parents don’t always know the answers. But then with the teacher there, it really helps with my education,” Yeo said.

He says it helped in comprehension with math and English — it’s a testament to the commitment in the classroom.

“They adapted to the students needs,” another student said.

Students and school leaders were proud to have persevered throughout the pandemic.

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“This is a testament to our grit and determination to keep answering the call for our kids and meeting them where they are at,” Farina said.