August 22, 2021
Message from the Superintendent
Dear PUSD Community:
The last 18 months have been unlike any in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in a myriad of ways. The impact of the pandemic on our community and especially our students has been devastating. I am proud of how we, as a district, have responded in serving our students and our community despite the many challenges.
Among the most critical challenges of COVID-19 is anticipating and quickly responding to new developments that occur almost every day. The immediate past has shown that PUSD can meet these challenges, but the rapid spread of the Delta variant is making extraordinary demands on our response efforts. Given that the schools are a fabric of our community, community transmission of the virus means that there are going to be cases in our schools. As with all school districts, PUSD has had to make major adjustments and implement new processes to protect our school community on very short notice.
I am confident that the safety measures we’ve put in place can keep our schools safe. The PUSD Exposure Management and Temporary Class or School Closure Plan (4.15.21) aligns with the state, county, and local public health requirements.
We have gotten significant media coverage recently regarding COVID-19 cases, especially at Marshall Fundamental School. We acted aggressively to prevent the spread of the virus when two cases were epidemiologically linked at Marshall Fundamental.
Now let’s get to some facts:
Once we were notified by health authorities that the two cases were epidemiologically linked, we notified those who were in close contact with the individuals and instructed them to immediately quarantine.
Out of an abundance of caution, and above what was required by health authorities, we asked all students in that grade level to show proof of vaccination or be quarantined until COVID-19 tests showed they were virus-free. 7th-grade students who are unvaccinated are required to test.
I cannot stress enough that we are continually exploring all options to meet this ever-changing public health crisis. Vaccinations continue to play a major role and we are developing new strategies to achieve full participation. I am proud that our employees were among the first in the county to receive the vaccine with a significant percentage availing themselves of the vaccination. We are executing the State’s public health order and requiring employees to present proof of vaccination by September 1, 2021, or take weekly COVID-19 tests.
Additionally, a key safety measure is testing, which allows us to be proactive in keeping students in school. To accomplish this scale of testing, we are aggressively ramping up our efforts. We are going over and above to ensure that we have adequate staff and resources needed to make this an effective step in our pandemic planning.
I will recommend to the Board of Education that all students 12 years and older be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing with informed consent by parents. To this end, we are preparing to bring on board 25 additional health professionals. This will allow us to have a team of three on each elementary site who will rotate to the secondary sites each Monday. We want all PUSD students to be tested, especially those that are unvaccinated, with informed consent by parents/guardians.
This is where you can do your part and complete the informed consent forms that will be available at schools in the coming days. It will take all of us working together to keep each other safe.
How We Communicate with You About COVID-19 Cases:
As outlined in PUSD’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, the District follows the local health authority’s Exposure Management Plan for notification. All cases are confidential and information regarding individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, close contacts with someone who is COVID-19 positive, or individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus, is sensitive confidential information. Names will not be released.
In the event there is a positive case, affected individuals (those in close contact) will be notified directly by their school or district staff and they will receive notification that may include self-isolation and/or quarantine directions and other important information. PUSD is also notifying students and staff who were enrolled in or in a shared space with a positive case. In the event of a higher concern regarding exposure, we are committed to keeping those involved and the broader community informed. We are aware of the fact that parents are finding the notification letters to be unclear and we are in the process of revising them.
Transparency is a core belief of our district. As such, we will provide as much information as possible so that you can make informed decisions for your children. This includes releasing the number of positive cases as often as possible. Cases are reported on the District’s COVID-19 Dashboard which is updated twice each week. Under the press of multiple obligations, we didn’t get last week’s COVID-19 Dashboard right. For that, we apologize. We have taken immediate steps so that it is as accurate as possible in the future.
An updated COVID-19 Dashboard has just been posted at https://www.pusd.us/covid19-dashboard with dates and data reset to August 1, 2021. The Dashboard will be updated late Tuesday and Friday afternoons with the confirmed information we have at that time. Among the improvements coming in the next week is to make the Dashboard more accessible with graphs and charts.
Together we can make a difference in defeating this virus by keeping the lines of communication open and by doing our part as individuals to adhere to the established safety protocols. This includes keeping our children at home if they display COVID symptoms, remind them to wear masks, fill out the informed consent form for student testing, and become vaccinated if eligible.
I want to commend all our PUSD staff – we face a very different situation now than even a month ago and we have all made major adjustments. I pledge that we will do our very best and work our hardest to serve our school community and especially to keep our students and staff safe.
Brian McDonald, Ed.D.
Self Screen Before You Leave Home
Stay home if you’re sick and get tested
Before leaving home all students, employees, and parents must conduct a self-check. Ask yourself these questions:
Do I have a fever?
Do I have a cough?
Am I experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing?
Am I experiencing any other symptoms?
Have I been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
In the last two weeks, have I been directed to quarantine, isolate or take a COVID-19 test?
If you respond "yes" to any of the questions, you must stay home and contact your school or office. It is recommended that you contact your primary care physician for further medical advice. If you have a fever with cough or shortness of breath, you are urged to contact your primary care physician as these symptoms may be attributed to COVID-19.
Upon arrival at school, school staff will perform a brief check-in to verify that students have completed a symptom screening.
Getting the vaccine will help protect our students and employees. COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone ages 12 and over. Get the COVID-19 vaccine to keep our community safe! www.pusd.us/vaccine
#VaccinatePasadena #PUSDproud @CityOfPasadena