#TeamPUSD Newsletter

August 2021 Back-to-School Edition

Back to School Message from Superintendent Phelps

Dear PUSD Families,

Before we dive into the busyness of back to school, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to what I hope will be a fantastic new school year, following one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced! I think it’s important that we take time to reflect, celebrate, and appreciate how far we’ve come and how hard we all worked to get here.

Tomorrow, nearly 36,000 students will be filling our hallways, buildings and classrooms, five days a week for in-person learning, something I think we won’t ever take for granted again. But my hope is that we don’t just plan on returning back to school, like it was pre-pandemic and business as usual. After a year of adapting, innovating, enduring, and literally trying everything... we as educators, as families, as a community, have learned so much! We learned how to do our jobs differently, how to serve each other better, how to be smarter, more efficient, more compassionate, and most importantly… more innovative. We all stretched ourselves to limits that were unimaginable in order to meet the needs of our students, staff, community and families.

Like many of you, over the summer, I watched the Olympic Games, and was moved by the stories of triumph and heartbreak. But one story in particular that resonated with me as I was thinking about the opening of our new school year, was a story that happened a few years ago.

Ivan Fernandez and Abel Mutai at the finish line of a long-distance race

Runners Abel Mutai from Kenya and Ivan Fernandez of Spain (pictured above) were approaching the finish line of a long distance race. Mutai was only a few meters from the finish line of a long distance race, but he got confused with the different signs and stopped, thinking he had finished the race. Fernandez was right behind him and realizing what was going on, started shouting at the Kenyan runner to keep running. Mutai did not know Spanish and so did not understand the shouting. So Fernandez then pushed Mutai to the finish line so Mutai could win the race.

Later, a reporter asked Fernandez “Why did you do this? Why didn’t you take the opportunity to win the race?” Fernandez replied, “My dream is that one day we can have some sort of community life where we push ourselves and also others to win.”

The reporter insisted “But why did you let the Kenyan win?”

Fernandez replied, “I didn’t let him win, he was going to win. The race was his.”

Again, the reporter insisted and asked again “But you could have won!”

Fernandez looked at him and replied, “But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of this medal? What would my mother think of it? The values are transmitted from generation to generation. What values do we teach our children and how much do you inspire others? Most of us take advantage of people’s weaknesses instead of helping to strengthen them.”

So I ask you, what is YOUR role as we look to help our children finish their race?

How will you help to strengthen them, and lift them up to run the best race that they can?

What kind of community life are you helping us build?

We are stronger and more resilient, because this past year we all ran this challenging long- distance race together!

Now we can set our eyes forward, pushing each and every student toward a brighter future, helping them through the confusing signs of life, helping them to win their race.

That is why I kicked off the new school year, encouraging staff to think outside the box, and try everything... for the sake and love of each and every one of our students.

Poway Unified 2021-22 Back to School Music Video: "Try Everything" Parody (Shakira)

This brings me to our annual PUSD Back to School music video: every year I pick a song that will inspire us for the new school year. This year's song we picked is “Try Everything” by Shakira from the movie Zootopia.

The lyrics spoke to me because they really reflected what we experienced during the past and current year. Here are a few lines from the song:

“I keep falling down, I keep on hitting the ground, But I always get up now to see what's next...

Birds don't just fly, They fall down and get up, Nobody learns without getting it wrong...

I won't give up, no, I won't give in till I reach the end, and then I'll start again.

No, I won't leave, I want to try everything, I want to try, even though I could fail.”

I hope you enjoy our 2021 music video!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together!” Everyone needs an Ivan Fernandez, pushing us through the confusing signs along the way, and helping us to reach the finish line.

-Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.



District Announcements

2021 Health & Safety Agreement

PUSD is following the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance for the opening of the 2021-22 school year. Each family must read, acknowledge and agree to the 2021 Health & Safety Agreement (Spanish) and submit it to their child's school.

School Reopening Information

You can find additional information related to school reopening on our website here. This page includes CDPH guidance at-a-glance and the an easy-to-read quarantine guide (seen below) as we work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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All School Staff Required to Show Proof of Vaccination or Test Weekly

As you may have heard, last week the CDPH issued a public health order requiring public schools to verify that all staff are fully vaccinated or tested regularly for COVID-19. Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 PCR or antigen testing.

This new public health order took effect last week, and will be phased in over the next month. School districts must be in full compliance by October 15, 2021.

On-Campus Volunteer Requirements

Per the CDPH: “Schools should limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving eternal groups or organizations with people who are not fully vaccinated.” At the August 12, 2021 Board of Education meeting, trustees clarified PUSD policies toward on-campus volunteers at PUSD Schools:

  • Essential volunteers include PTO/PTA/Foundation for necessary programs
  • Volunteers provide support in work rooms, non-classroom spaces, outdoors, or from home
  • No direct contact (one-on-one, small groups) with students
  • No in-classroom volunteers at this time
  • Assisting with organized outdoor events such as running club, and set-up/clean-up for outdoor carnivals is ok
  • Masks are required indoors while on campus
  • Volunteers must show proof of vaccination or a negative test within the week

Please contact your site principal if you have additional questions.

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Make sure to download and print your #PUSDBacktoSchool sign here for your child's first day. We have one for every grade level. Whether learning in-person or through Connect Academy, Independent Study, or Homeschool, we can't wait to see your first day pics!

All School Meals are Free

School meals for the 2021-22 school year will continue to be available and FREE to ALL students. Students will receive both lunch and breakfast for the following day.

Poway Unified School District

The Poway Unified School District is located in northern San Diego County, California. PUSD operates 25 elementary schools (K-5), one elementary & middle school combination (TK-8th), six middle schools (6-8), one continuation high school, five comprehensive high schools (9-12), and one adult school. 24 schools are located in the city of San Diego; 11 schools in the city of Poway; and 3 in the County of San Diego. The District serves approximately 36,000 students and is the third largest school district in the county.