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First published in the Jan. 6 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

While predictions abounded for high absences at area schools when the holiday break ended, the San Marino Unified School District had a 92% attendance rate on Monday when doors were opened following the fortnight of closure.
Rumors abounded of districts returning via distance or hybrid learning while officials were able to get their arms around an increased COVID infection rate, but it was full speed ahead at the SMUSD. Huntington Middle School boasted a 96% attendance rate on Monday, impressive when considering the early-January return.

First published in the Jan. 6 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

The coronavirus pandemic has recently “exploded” in San Marino, Fire Chief Mario Rueda said, while encouraging what amounts to a back-to-basics approach to battle the Omicron variant.
As of Tuesday morning, San Marino has 762 reported cases of COVID-19, up from 503 cases on Dec. 2. That number does not include those who may have self-tested and received a positive result but not reported the results to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It also does not count those who might have contracted the virus but are asymptomatic.

First published in the Nov. 25 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

As California continues its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic largely resulting from having a majority of its population vaccinated against the disease, people are reverting back to normalcy.
A return to holiday traditions was evident on Halloween with more trick-or-treaters out on the streets and with more gatherings planned during the Thanksgiving holiday. Though COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are lower in California compared with the previous year, health and government officials still worry about the possibility of a winter surge similar to 2020.

First published in the Oct. 14 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

The San Marino Unified School District announced last week that it will follow a directive from Gov. Gavin Newsom requiring all students in public and private schools in California to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The directive is conditional on the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the vaccine for students in grades 7-12. 

First published in the Oct. 14 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

City Manager Marcella Marlowe was sharply criticized by the San Marino Police Officers’ Association following the municipality’s proposal of a mandatory employee vaccination policy, co-workers and fellow city leaders rallied to support the administrator and decry what one called “a cheap tactic.”
The City Council directed the municipal staff in September to pursue an employee vaccination mandate, which is currently under negotiation with the SMPOA. In the meantime, the union last week took out a full-page, paid advertisement in the Tribune to chastise what it depicted as shortcomings in Marlowe’s performance and leadership style. The ad was titled “San Marino Police Officers’ Association Declares a Vote of No Confidence on the City Manager.”

As a new school year was dawning, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced last Friday that it was ramping up restrictions aimed at mitigating a recent spike in COVID-19 infections — rules requiring athletes to be tested for the virus.
In a later communication, the county set Sept. 1 as the date when the orders become effective, said David Irie, San Marino High School’s director of athletics and director of student experiences.
The county also said it is requiring all spectators, athletes and coaches to wear masks indoors. Volleyball players must wear their masks during competition and can take them off only when eating or drinking.

A total of four students from both of the local elementary schools tested positive on Monday for COVID-19, school officials said in a statement. 
All parents of elementary school students received a general notice from the school principals informing them of the positive cases on campus. The cases were also reported on the district’s COVID dashboard. Students who were identified as having been in close contact with the individuals testing positive, as defined by the Los Angeles County Department of Health (LACDPH), received a separate notification from the school informing families that their child is required to quarantine for 7-10 days. 

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.

Tribune file photos
Matthew Karapetyan figures to be a key contributor on both offense and defense for the Titans in the 2020-21 season.

San Marino High School head coach Justin Mesa won’t believe the football season has arrived until he sees the opening kickoff sailing through the twilight sky above Titan Stadium this Friday evening at 7 p.m.
And who could blame him. Since its last game in November 2019, the sport has seen so many stops and starts it should have been accompanied by the yellow flag that flies over NASCAR races to indicate a delay in the action.
But that could all end and the Titans will begin an abbreviated schedule when Burbank’s John Burroughs High School comes calling for Friday’s season-opener at SMHS.
It will certainly be the first San Marino football game ever contested in the month of March, but Mesa has waited so long for the COVID storm to subside that he would agree to just about any stipulation to allow his squad to play.
“The kids are really excited to play,” said Mesa. “They have a high energy level right now and who can blame them. After being off the field for a year and a half, we still have a long road ahead of us. But the guys have developed this ‘us against the world’ attitude that has really brought them together. They are having a good time and that is what you are looking for.”

Photos by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE
San Marino High School’s girls’ volleyball team, pictured after last week’s game at Mayfield, include (front row, from left) Amanda Redding, Leela Anvekar, Erin Hill, Kira Glasse, Nanami Matzumoto and Tessa Kackstetter. Top row: coach Angel Ramirez, Marlene Ketelaar, Cassandra Liong, Gabriela Salim, Mira Emmamulee, Aubrey Wendling, Heidi Doerges, Renee Rodriguez and Maya Gonzales.

Even for a time of maximum unpredictability, the sport of high school girls’ volleyball has endured the most volatile fortunes. In late February, the sport received what seemed to amount to a death knell when it was assessed that there was insufficient time to pull off a season, especially when considering its traditional manner of play as an indoor sport.
Buy like many in the business world, officials simply moved the game outdoors so when state health officials gave the green light to conduct play, volleyballers were ready.