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More than a year after they abruptly closed due to concerns about COVID-19, San Marino’s public schools can once again be considered “open for business,” effective Thursday, April 1.“I am very excited for our students,” said school board president Shelley Ryan, herself an educator. “Whether you are in kindergarten, second grade or high school, this is very good news. This has been an exhausting year.”Students in grades TK — transitional kindergarten — through 5th grade already began in-person learning at Valentine and Carver elementary schools in late February and early March, but Thursday will mark a significant return to the district’s campuses.

Photos courtesy Scott DavesSan Marino’s Cole Giles (72) motors downfield after recovering a fumble against Burbank Burroughs. The Titans have decided to cancel next Friday’s game against Monrovia and will play South Pasadena on April 2. “We have been waiting six months for football to return,” said one fan as he filed out of Titan Stadium on Friday night, “and tonight this town was able to take a nice, long, cool drink.”The final score that was still emblazoned on the scoreboard was of little consequence to most who assembled at San Marino High School on a cool spring evening. It only mattered that they were there.For the record, Burbank’s John Burroughs High School filled in for Temple City and defeated the Titans, 30-14, but the atmosphere that is unique to Friday Night Lights traveled well.

As dedicated volunteers, working intimately at each of our San Marino School sites, we are devastated at the failure of Measure E. Despite PTA and community efforts to support the Measure E campaign, it failed to pass by 120 votes. On March 9, the School Board voted to eliminate 41.2 positions throughout San Marino Schools. We are heartbroken for our students, teachers and staff.

Like most young people her age, Camdyn Wu — a junior at San Marino High School — was optimistic at announcements that a COVID-19 vaccine was imminently available and the end of the coronavirus pandemic was approaching. While there was much to celebrate, the good news also arrived with a whole new set of challenges.

Evangelina Wong recently became the youngest of the first group of female Eagle Scouts in the BSA GLACC Rose Bowl District. Wong, 14, is a freshman at Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra and was inaugurated on Feb. 8. Her aspirations include becoming a medical professional after attending UCLA and medical school. She has been scouting for seven years and is a proud founding member of Scouts BSA Troop 360 in San Marino and an inspiring leader since Feb. 1, 2019. Wong completed all of her requirements in 22 months. During the coronavirus pandemic, she completed her Eagle Project by serving Troop 360’s chartered organization, St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church. She led her parents in restoring four damaged walls at the youth center and built an oak wood frame for her educational art piece to be displayed on one of the refurbished walls. Wong is also working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award.

Often removed from the nuts-and-bolts operations of a school district during the COVID-19 pandemic are the basic needs of its students, and the San Marino school board heard a presentation from two experts in the field of socio-emotional wellness at its meeting on Jan. 26.Tonya El-Hendi, a counselor at San Marino High School, and Larry Wong, a licensed marriage and family therapist, provided insight into the condition of students who are approaching one year of isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic from their peers, teachers and many of those whom they interact with regularly during extracurricular activities.

Photo courtesy Titanium RoboticsA.J. Wong is shown at the controls of one of Titanium Robotics’ creations. Matthew Lee still has total recall of the moment. It was early March, and San Marino High School’s Titanium Robotics team was about to depart for a major competition in Kansas City when the group received the bad news.“We had a lunch meeting scheduled, all about the upcoming Kansas City competition,” said Lee, a senior, who serves as the team’s engineering president. “It was surreal to have to attend the meeting with a totally uncertain and undefined future.”The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the tournament, the remainder of the season and all in-person interaction on Friday, March 13. Typically a hotbed of activity — especially in the weeks leading up to tournaments — the robotics room was immediately abandoned, like most of the campus, as students moved on to online learning or graduation.

Lena Richter The San Marino Unified School District has hired Lena Richter as executive director of educational services.Richter comes from the Glendale Unified School District, where she most recently worked as the director of categorical programs and interventions, a role in which she was responsible for coordinating and leading professional development in curriculum, instruction and program compliance review.

Matthew LeeAnna MollerAndrew Yim Three seniors at San Marino High School were informed recently that they are semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship program. The program selects 16,000 students to become semifinalists from the more than 1.5 million high school juniors who took the PSAT during the last academic year, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants.Anna Moller, Matthew Lee and Andrew Yim have advanced to the next level of the program, where they remain in competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million.