Pasadena Unified School District Details Proactive Response to Coronavirus

Brian McDonald

The unprecedented impact of the coronavirus has warranted an equally unprecedented response, and the Pasadena Unified School District is proud to be on the forefront of educational and institutional leadership during this time.
We have worked hard to prepare, act quickly in response to a fluid and ever-changing situation, and to bring together resources to ensure that teachers in the district have the support they need to teach effectively. We have also made sure that children have the tools they need to continue to learn and thrive with as little interruption as possible.

Here’s how it all happened:

EMERGENCY PLANNING AND PREPAREDNESS

The district’s emergency planning for disaster preparedness included routine training last fall. In January, PUSD’s emergency team began monitoring news emerging from China about the coronavirus. By February, PUSD went on higher alert, reviewing pandemic plans with the city of Pasadena Public Health, the L.A. County Office of Education and L.A. County Public Health. PUSD’s Health Programs also began training nurses and health clerks.
By late February, the district’s Emergency Operation Center was moved to a higher state of alert to prevent and prepare for the coronavirus pandemic.
Once concerns widened, action steps were identified, including the development of distance learning plans. A pre-planned emergency preparedness exercise on earthquakes on March 9 instead became a pandemic training and discussion. In the next four days, PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald, with input from Health Programs Director Ann Rector, took action to cancel public events and take social distancing measures at schools. By Friday, March 13, schools were closed with students dismissed from school starting March 16. This nimble response was possible because on March 12, the Board of Education approved an emergency declaration, giving the superintendent authorization to make necessary and expedient decisions to protect students, staff and families.

TRANSITION TO ONLINE LEARNING

The district’s transition to online learning reflects strong leadership at all levels and the innovation and forward-thinking approach of teams in the district’s Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Development and Information Technology Services to develop a quality educational program that accommodates all students, including those with disabilities.
In just days, this team created a distance learning program that could be deployed in three stages in case school closures were prolonged.

A COMMITMENT TO TECHNOLOGY

This response was also made possible because of PUSD’s strong investment in its technology infrastructure. Teachers had already been trained in educational technology. Using PowerSchool Online Classrooms with secured student accounts, the district’s curriculum and educational technology team created content, which students began accessing on March 16.  Arrangements were also made to provide printed copies to families who needed them.
PUSD’s 1:1 technology investment in 2018 allowed for easy deployment of Chromebooks to every student. Every middle and high school student already had take-home devices. Through the Sprint 1 Million program, some already had free Wi-Fi hotspots to take home. Students in kindergarten through 5th grade had 1:1 devices in the classroom only. On Thursday, before schools closed, PUSD’s technology division and instructional coaches prepared schools and teachers to check out devices to students.
Once the decision to close schools was made on Friday — and just 45 minutes before dismissal — a crew made up of maintenance and operations, technology, academics and clerical workers descended on the district’s warehouse to unpack, sterilize and deliver chargers to all elementary schools. You can view this impressive act of teamwork at tinyurl.com/pusdatwork.

SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS

Delivering school meals during emergencies is embedded in the operations of PUSD’s Food & Nutrition Services Department. When the call came to prepare for the pandemic, they were ready. By Friday afternoon, they had identified emergency grab-n-go sites, and preparations began for prepackaged breakfasts and lunches. Over the weekend, offers of help poured in, so PUSD arranged with the Pasadena Educational Foundation to coordinate volunteers for the food service sites and donations for families in need.
In addition, the district’s school support services department developed a guide to help families cope with anxiety related to the coronavirus.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

With schools now projected to reopen on May 5 and the county now staying “safer at home,” PUSD is prepared to continue to serve its students, families, staff and its community — no matter how long it takes. During the closure, the maintenance and operations team will conduct a deep cleaning of each campus. PUSD stands ready to continue delivering the essential services that students and families rely on.

For more information, contact the PUSD Family Hotline at (626) 396-3680.

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