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AUSD Board Hears Details on Preparations for Coronavirus Response

Photo by David Muñoz.


Alhambra , CA

The Alhambra Unified School District board meeting Tuesday night was, at the outset, a celebratory affair as the board members honored AUSD high school winter athlete teams for making it to the CIF semifinals and recognized individual athletes for their accomplishments. The board also heard a presentation on the Positive Behavior Intervention Support program at Marguerita Elementary School.

But while reported cases of coronavirus had still not made their way into the community or AUSD campuses, the subject was not far from the minds of many in the packed room at the district’s Mission Road headquarters.

The board honored the boys and girls varsity wrestling teams from Alhambra, Mark Keppel and San Gabriel high schools and the boys and girls basketball teams from Mark Keppel. The girls team at Keppel had its streak of 100 consecutive league wins broken on Feb. 7, 2020, losing to Alhambra, the same school they beat to start the streak some years ago. The board also honored the girls varsity water polo team at Keppel.

After the celebration was over, the throng of student-athletes, coaches, family members and kids and teachers from Marguerita filed out of the board meeting room and the serious business of the evening took over.

Agenda item four was a presentation to the board of Alhambra Unified School District’s “Plan to Prepare for and Prevent Possible Spread of Novel Coronavirus COVID-19.”

Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo led the discussion emphasizing that as of now, which was Tuesday night around 7 p.m., there were no reported cases of COVID-19 in the district.

She detailed at length the guidelines that the district is following in assessing public health threats and what scenarios might force a closure of an individual school, many schools or all schools in the district.

Jaramillo said the district is using guidelines set forth in a March 7 joint advisory from the California Department of Education and the California Department of Public Health to County Offices of Education, County District Superintendents and other interested parties. 

That advisory, called “School Guidance on Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19,” detailed four scenarios.

— Scenario I: Measures already underway to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Those steps include a review of comprehensive school safety plans, including continuity plans for teach and learning if students are absent from school.  

Send students, teachers and staff who are present with fever and/or respiratory infection symptoms home immediately. Separate them from others until they go home. When feasible, identify a “sick room” through which others do not regularly pass. (To this point, Jaramillo noted that each campus in the district has a designed sick room or sick area for students students who may exhibit coronavirus symptoms.) Other steps, including the encouragement of flu vaccine for those over the age of six months of age who have not had it this season and encouraging students, faculty and staff to take everyday preventive cautions including staying home when sick, using “respiratory etiquette,” like coughing into a tissue, throwing it away then sanitizing hands, and washing hands frequently, are already being taken.

— Scenario II: Measures being taken if there are two or more community transmissions cases of COVID-19, but on individuals within the school test positive.

The guidance recommends that that school administrators limiting visitors to the school, consider alternatives to group programming within the school such as assemblies. Alternate approaches may include conducting assemblies via webcasts. Consider implementing staggered recess times to limit the number of students who are together and, if possible, group recess by classrooms.

— Scenario III: Measures to be taken if one student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and exposed others at the school.

In consultation with the local public health department, the appropriate school official may consider if school closure is warranted and length of time based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local public health officer. In consultation with the local public health department, school officials may determine readmission criteria after the school closures. Implement communication plans(systems?) for school plans to include outreach to students, parents, teachers, staff and the community. Provide guidance to parents, teachers and staff about the importance of community social distancing measures while school is closed. Consider developing a plan for continuity of education, medical and social services and meal programs.

— Scenario IV: Measures to be taken if multiple schools with a school district have a student, teacher or staff member testing positive for COVID-19.

If multiple schools within the district have a student, teacher or staff member with a positive COVID-19 test the school administrator may determine if additional schools should be closed and what length of time is warranted based on the risk level within the specific community.

The full text of the School Guidance on Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 memo may be found here.

The district has been engaged in many of the recommendations in Scenario I and, despite the fact that there are no community transmissions, is reviewing school safety plans in many other scenarios.

Jaramillo said the district is “not closing anything today” but that it seems that despite the fact that there are no reported cases in the district, “the circle is closing around us.” Her remarks indicated that the district has been and will continue to be vigilant in its preparations and oversight of the situation.

To be prepared, the district is also exploring remote instruction, ways to continue necessary meal programs to keep kids strong including a grab and go lunch scenario and how to consider pay and benefits for teachers, administrators and staff.

She added that the school closure step is serious business and the district is not taking the situation lightly.

After her part of the presentation, George Murray, the assistant superintendent of facilities and planning development, reported on what is being done at the school-level to disinfect and protect all in the campus community. Those steps include:

— Classrooms being fogged with Lysol at the end of the school day to neutralize viruses that may be present on hard surfaces.

— High touch areas such as door handles, handrails and restroom facilities being sanitized during the school day with Purell foodservice sanitizer.

— Restrooms being monitored throughout the day to ensure adequate supplies of soap and water.

A complete rundown of district steps and a Q&A may be found in this comprehensive communication posted on March 3.


Our previous reporting:

Six New Cases of Coronavirus Identified in L.A. County; All Are Linked to Travel March 4, 2020

First U.S. Death From Coronavirus Occurs; Still No New Cases in L.A. County March 1, 2020

Coronavirus: Public Health Officials Warn of Inevitable Spread, Then Walk Back on Message Feb. 25, 2020

Coronavirus: How Many Have It, Where and Who Has Recovered from COVID-19 Feb. 22, 2020

Coronavirus Update: County Officials, AUSD and Garvey Superintendents Host Public Health Presentation Feb. 14, 2020

Still No Coronavirus in SGV: AUSD Sticking With Health Facts as Petition Emerges Urging Suspension of Classes Feb. 4, 2020

Coronavirus: Here’s What Happened in the Last Few Days Feb. 3, 2020

AUSD Officials Address Coronavirus Concerns in English and Mandarin video; Jan. 31, 2020

Coronavirus is Not in the San Gabriel Valley. The Flu is a Bigger Threat to Families This Lunar New Year. Jan. 30, 2020

El coronavirus no está en el valle de San Gabriel. La gripe es una amenaza mayor para las familias este año nuevo lunar. Jan. 30 2020

冠状病毒不在圣盖博谷地。流感是农历新年对家庭的更大威胁。 Jan. 30, 2020

For more information from the Alhambra Source, go to our Stay Healthy page.

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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