Students, families, and faculty geared up with on Thursday, August 12, to return in person to all five district campuses in South Pasadena.
After over a year of abrupt adjustments onset by COVID regulations and protocol meant to protect students and teachers — distance learning and hybrid models were the prerogative in these preventative measures — many shared feelings of anxiousness mixed with enthusiasm in the hopes that the upcoming year will bring better fortune.
“What a terrific day! We are off to an incredible start to the 2021-2022 school year. It has been a busy and wonderful time welcoming everyone back to school. I enjoyed seeing many smiling eyes throughout the District this morning. Thank you for all your support and encouragement as we embark on full-time, in-person learning,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz said in a letter addressed to the community on Thursday.
At SPHS, SPMS, and all three elementary schools — Arroyo Vista, Monterey Hills, and Marengo — crowds lined up, properly equipped with both knowledge and masks from the past year.
“I feel we are ready to go back and know how to be safe at this point,” said one Arroyo Vista parent. “We trust the teachers and the staff here at school and know that everyone’s doing what they can to make sure that the kids have a safe environment.” They did however express “concern about the district shutting the schools down again and having to learn though computers again.”
Mental health of the students, who over the course of the pandemic expressed dissatisfaction and anxiety over the breakneck overhaul that they had to adjust to, remains a priority for everyone. A parent of a Junior at SPHS, says, “My son is very anxious to get back. We aren’t necessarily concerned about how the school is going to handle the safety, but we are concerned about lockdowns again. If they close the schools down again, we will be left with tough choices for another school year.”
The district also reiterated the safety mandates instated by Governor Gavin Newsom, announcing that California will require public schools to verify that employees are fully vaccinated or they must be tested regularly. This aligns with all of Los Angeles County who has taken up the same regulations, which also encompasses 80 school districts. “Education officials have estimated that about 83% of K-12 school district employees are vaccinated. Unvaccinated SPUSD employees will be required to complete weekly COVID-19 testing,” Yantz elaborated.
Additionally, to safeguard the health of the community, starting Tuesday, August 17, SPUSD announced it will be providing weekly surveillance testing for employees and students. For student-athletes, in-season, they will be tested weekly due to the close proximity in which they must train and perform. According to Yantz, for all other students, surveillance testing is optional. More information about surveillance testing including the registration link can be found at spusd.net. For testing, participants must register a child by the Friday prior to the test day.
Vaccination remains the first line of defense against COVID-19, says the district. “If you are seeking an appointment to be vaccinated, visit the LADPH website for more information. We are confident in the many layered mitigation measures that are in place at all of our schools,” Yantz continued in his letter. The COVID-19 Containment, Response & Control Plan, located on SPUSD’s site, is updated regularly and aligned with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health protocols. This plan goes into greater detail about each of the mitigation measures that are in place.
“While this school year will certainly present new challenges, I’m optimistic that this will be a fantastic year for our students. It is up to all of us to make this happen. Please enjoy these first day of school photos from around our campuses. I look forward to everything we will achieve together,” Yantz concluded in his letter.
As for families in the district, they also share the hope and enthusiasm, with another elementary school parent emphasizing, “Safety is key and we are on board with that.”