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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.

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.

By C. Joseph Chang
Special to the Tribune

Photo courtesy C. Joseph Chang
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas is a famous temple located at Lotus Lake in Zuoying District, Kuohsiung, Taiwan.

Like many of our readers, I have humbly reconsidered many basic aspects that I had previously taken for granted prior to 2020. The uniquely infectious nature of COVID-19 has forced us to creatively stretch ourselves to continue our way of life.
As COVID-19 has affected our school district, I helped oversee the virtual curriculum and adjustment process to the international pandemic. I worked diligently as San Marino Unified School District board president with our superintendent, Dr. Jeff Wilson, and a core team since March 2020, so that our kids could continue to learn during this difficult time.
However, my trip to Taiwan this past December has allowed me to further reflect and wish to share my curious journey. This past year marked the longest time away from my hometown in 37 years. When our understanding of the COVID-19 virus through our public health measures had sufficiently improved, I decided to visit my relatives for a bit longer this time.
Despite its small size as an island nation with a population of 23.78 million, Taiwan represents an example of public health at its finest. Of the 103 million cases worldwide, only 915 have been in Taiwan since the start of the pandemic, including eight months without a single death, according to a Reuters story on Jan. 29. These rare numbers are only possible through a shared community adherence to public health measures that have protected the people. Before my flight to Taiwan, I had to begin to prepare for the gamut of regulations from Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control for incoming travelers.

Photo courtesy the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington President Karen Lawrence addresses donors at the dedication of the Chinese Garden, which was recently renovated and expanded. The Huntington’s Botanical Gardens are open for scheduled visits.

After rounding out the Centennial celebration at the Huntington Library in 2020 — a momentous year for the museum amid cascading, calamitous events beyond its walls — President Karen Lawrence has renewed veneration for historical narratives and their diverse, ongoing interpretations and revisions.
This, she said, is how the Huntington will remain vibrant and relevant for centuries to come.
And perhaps, in another 100 years, the recent pandemic, historic marches for racial and social justice, and unprecedented political turmoil will also be explored as interdisciplinary displays at the world-renowned institution, much as it presented the “Nineteen Nineteen” exhibition, an exploration of the tumultuous year the museum was founded.

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.

While health officials search for new language to quantify the troubling increase in cases of COVID-19, San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda insisted there is no magic bullet with which to combat the pandemic.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Monday reported that a person dies from the disease every eight minutes in the county, while noting an 898% increase in cases since Dec. 1.
San Marino ended 2020 with 244 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic’s beginning, but as of press time Tuesday that number had grown to 289 — an increase of almost 20% in less than two weeks. Deaths from COVID in San Marino also increased, from 8 to 11 in just one week’s time. On a wider basis, the county approached the 1 million mark in COVID cases, with 932,697 reported as of Tuesday. Countywide, the death toll rose to 12,387.
Rueda said data has shown that in the county, outbreaks are occurring at airports, workplaces, stores, schools and fitness classes.

With the number of Southern Californians infected by COVID-19 spiking to unexpected heights — an increase that is reflected in the rise in cases in San Marino — a state agency has issued a “critical request” asking for fire departments to support staffing at hospital emergency rooms.
Locally, COVID-19 cases and deaths have more than doubled in just the six weeks since Thanksgiving. Through Nov. 25 — the day before Thanksgiving — San Marino had 114 cases of the virus, with three deaths, since the pandemic began. As of Tuesday, those numbers had surged to 254 cases and 10 deaths.
Fire services throughout the state have been asked by California’s Office of Emergency Services to provide critically needed paramedics and emergency medical technicians to hospitals, alternative care sites and federal medical stations.
“Utilizing the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, firefighter paramedics and EMTs are being requested to support the increased patient surge and overwhelmed medical staff,” said the request from OES dated Dec. 28.