PUSD Superintendent Finding Positives in a Difficult Time

Brian McDonald

Like many other districts in the area, the Pasadena Unified School District began the academic year with remote learning on Monday, in keeping with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidelines preventing schools in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list from delivering in-person instruction.
Closures in March due to the coronavirus forced many schools to pivot into uncharted territory with distance learning, but the PUSD believes it’s ready and is optimistic about the road ahead.
“We’re excited to see our students reconnect, learn and advance in the new school year,” Superintendent Brian McDonald said in a letter to the community this week. “Although we are beginning with extraordinary circumstances, the entire PUSD team is committed to providing a quality education for all of our students. We’re eager to engage students in meaningful learning so that every student has opportunities to fulfill their potential.”
However, he recognized that there may be a few challenges and asked parents and students to be patient as the district works through them.

“New beginnings always bring new opportunities — even in a season that’s been exceptionally difficult for our district, families and communities,” McDonald wrote to The Outlook. “The next few months will require us to be flexible as we devise new solutions to new problems. We trust that our optimism and collaboration will translate into growth for our students, teachers, staff and families as we navigate the pandemic.”
The district has sought to help families better prepare for distance learning, providing Chromebooks and internet access for students and extending the district’s help desk during the start of school. Curbside tech support is also offered to assist any students or parents. A School Opening Guide containing information about the new school year was also posted on the district’s website at pusd.us/covid19.
According to McDonald, one of the district’s biggest goals has been to create routines and a sense of community, making the first weeks crucial for teachers and administrators.
“During the first few weeks of school, teachers get to know their students, assess their learning needs and establish routines,” he said in his message to the community.
“ … In the first days of the new school year, teachers are concentrating on teaching students how to learn online. Schools may set up times for virtual parent meetings to create connections within the school community.
“The new year of remote learning has a structured daily schedule with more live interaction between teachers and students, with more opportunities for students to interact with each other.”
Creating some normalcy by interacting with students is regarded as essential to their well-being, and the district emphasized that it offers plenty of resources for students in need.
“The emotional and mental well-being of our students is a big concern,” McDonald said. “PUSD has extensive mental health support available to students, including counseling. These are available through the child’s school. As caring adults, it’s important that we model calm behavior, set a calm, structured routine, and focus on the positive.”
District officials and staff members seek to address the need for child care for many families.
“We have been working on plans for in-person child care and are awaiting state guidance, which will be issued this week,” McDonald said. “Our LEARNs [after-school] program is working on a partnership with the city of Pasadena to design child-care options that meet Pasadena public health guidelines.”

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