In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I am gaining perspective and inspiration from his own words:
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
Many of us might consider this to be a dark time in history as COVID-19 creeps into every aspect of our lives, prices push way past what’s reasonable, and violence vies for our attention in the news. Yet, in the darkness I’ve been able to see stars in the Pasadena Unified community every day, stars who are stepping up once again in order to keep students learning in school instead of on screen. We believe increased access to in-person instruction diminishes equity gaps caused by the pandemic. Face-to-face connections also have mental health and social emotional benefits for students.
Our priority has always been to keep students on campus and to do so as safely as possible. We have many bright lights illuminating our path, even when it becomes treacherous. Our employees have been working overtime to help our community get vaccinated, boosted, and tested. Since the start of the school year in August, PUSD has conducted over 73,000 PCR tests through our robust PUSD testing program. That includes over 2,400 conducted during Winter break alone. All students can access weekly tests at mobile testing clinics at each school, in addition to weekly testing clinics at the PUSD Education Center, which have been available since August.
We are also implementing a lower-risk exposure management plan for students who have tested positive for COVID-19. While public health guidelines have shortened the number of days students must stay in isolation, school districts have the option of implementing stricter measures. With the highest rate of cases, we’ve seen in the pandemic, PUSD is keeping the longer isolation period of 10 days for students who test positive. Employees who test positive can return after 5 days under certain circumstances with a negative test. Although we’ve seen several staff absences due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, their colleagues are doing whatever they can to fill in the gaps. Many of our District’s executive leaders began their careers in the classroom and have done an outstanding job returning to the classroom as needed. They are definitely stars, in my eyes.
Over the next week, we will be distributing more than 15 thousand no-cost, at-home COVID-19 antigen tests provided by the California Department of Public Health. All TK-12 students will receive one rapid antigen testing kit to conduct surveillance testing at home. The goal of the PUSD Take Home Antigen Test Program is to reduce the risk of transmission by receiving immediate results and preventing students from attending school while positive for COVID-19.
During the pandemic, Pasadena Unified employees have proven time and again that our schools are cornerstones of our community, where we inspire the joy of learning in every child, every day. We are confronting the continuing challenges with strength, perseverance, and an abiding love for the children and community we serve. We are thankful for the many individuals and organizations who have stepped up to support our students, employees, and schools.
Michelle Richardson Bailey was elected to the Pasadena Unified School District in 2017 representing District 3. She currently serves as Vice President of the Board.