Weekly roundup: Santa Ana principal saluted as a ‘SoCal Hero,’ understanding quarantine guidance, and more

Like all Santa Ana Unified campuses, James Madison Elementary offered only distance learning for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year. But Principal Lisa Gonzales-Solomon worked tirelessly throughout to keep her students and their families connected while they were away.

That meant organizing food drives and personally checking in on kids at their homes.

Principal with students and residents of an assisted living facility“Some of our families had very little,” she said. “I think for them, everyone else was stockpiling food, toilet paper, things like that. So for us, it was important to be able to provide to keep our families alive in ways.”

In recognition of her efforts, Spectrum News 1 this week featured Gonzales-Solomon as its latest “SoCal Hero.”  And during the news crew’s visit to the campus, which reopened for in-person learning, they also captured how contagious kindness can be.

Indeed, word of Solomon’s compassion inspired seniors from an assisted living facility in Irvine to show the school a little love of their own. As Spectrum News 1 reported, they packed new school supplies into their bus and headed to Madison to express their gratitude and solidarity with the principal.

“Honestly, it touches my heart because so many people stepped up,” Gonzales-Solomon said.

“I think it sends the message that it’s not just us who cares about them, it’s the greater community,” she added, “and when we can give them that message, they’re going to learn to do the same when they grow up.”

Here are some of the other stories we’ve been following this week:

  • After serving for nearly 25 years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in OCDE’s alternative education program, Vern Burton was selected in July to oversee the division known as ACCESS. To re-engage students who disconnected during the pandemic, Burton and his team are banking on innovative, engaging and individualized lessons.
  • Schools in Orange County are once again tasked with identifying students who have been exposed to COVID-19 on campus and initiating quarantine protocols, the Register reports. This school year, who stays home and for how long depends on a number of factors, including what symptoms are present and whether masks were worn properly at the time of the exposure.
  • This week, the Santa Ana Unified School District’s Board of Education approved a plan to have every student and staff member tested weekly for COVID-19. The Los Angeles and Long Beach unified school districts have implemented similar measures, but Santa Ana is said to be the first to do so in Orange County.
  • Hundreds of first-graders from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District received special care boxes filled with with crayons, markers, scissors, glue and other school supplies courtesy of the local Harbor Mesa Lions Club.
  • A new law that set new rules for independent study programs is hamstringing the ability of schools to teach students while they’re at home under COVID-19 quarantine protocols, CalMatters reports. The new legislation, which was intended to fix the shortcomings of distance learning, is causing frustration for parents and educators alike.
  • UC and Cal State schools are no longer considering entrance exams in their admissions, but many private colleges still accept scores, even if they’re optional. The ambiguity has left some high schoolers uncertain over whether they should take the tests.
  • The Los Angeles Unified School District instructed all students in one elementary classroom to stay at home after a handful of linked coronavirus cases were reported, indicating school-based transmission. L.A. Unified requires mandatory weekly testing for all students, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Amid the talk of COVID-19 vaccines for younger children, the Associated Press reports that a large number of students have fallen behind on routine immunizations against diseases like polio, measles, tetanus and whooping cough.

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