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Stocking Up on Goodwill

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
Shoppers line up outside of Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena. Looking for a way to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of local residents have volunteered to shop for senior citizens and others who are challenged by going out in public.

Though its streets now resemble those of a ghost town, the volunteer spirit in South Pasadena is alive, well and patrolling the aisles of local grocery stores. Thanks to an all-star assemblage of do-gooders who last week were looking for a way to help out as the community went on COVID-19-induced lockdown.
“As things seemed to be getting worse, about a dozen of us communicated and thought ‘What can we do that’s actually helpful?’” said Ed Donnelly, in his typical self-deprecating manner. “We wanted to be very practical about it. Given the chaos that was taking place at grocery stores and the fact that we have a large population of senior citizens who are quite vulnerable, we came up with a plan.”
Donnelly and his cohorts met with community members and came away with a mission.
“Everybody was consistent,” said Donnelly, who last month received the esteemed Golden Apple Award from the South Pasadena Unified School District, which acknowledges volunteerism above and beyond the call of duty. “It was basically, ‘take my list and go shopping for me.’ They were looking for things they eat and use on a weekly basis. They were very specific.”

Holy Family Stays Close With Remote Teaching

Thank goodness Darcie Girmus knew what a snow day was.
After teaching for 17 years in her native Nebraska, Girmus spent 16 years at a school in Virginia before joining South Pasadena’s Holy Family Catholic School as its principal for the start of the current academic year — “What an interesting year, right?” she asked with a laugh. Moving to Southern California to continue her career meant leaving behind snow and the spontaneous havoc it would wreak on a school.

Photo courtesy Holy Family Catholic School
First-grade teacher Carrie Levin records story time for her students to watch daily.

Now, with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has all but completely shut down schools in California, Girmus has had to dust off those memories again.
“There’s never a reason school closes here,” Girmus said, “but out there, it’s typical. I had watched this virus in China, and when it first came to the U.S., I started saying to the faculty, this might be a real thing. We might have to go into a remote teaching situation. If you start thinking about it now, you can start to make plans.”

City Shields Businesses, Renters From Eviction

Mirroring actions in other cities, South Pasadena officials moved forward with an emergency declaration last week, and went on to establish measures to protect residential and commercial tenants from eviction.
The extraordinary steps were prompted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to alter all facets of society as governments ramp up tactics to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the wake of rising death tolls and the specter of overwhelmed hospitals. For example, Los Angeles County officials decreed late last week that all “nonessential” retail businesses in the county close, an order that leaves only choice service providers open for business at the moment.
South Pasadena’s council voted unanimously to approve the emergency declaration, which grants the city manager emergency powers over a variety of city functions. Then, given the increasing vulnerability of residents who are now out of work and business owners without revenue streams, the panel voted 4-1 to prohibit evictions on the basis of late rent payments for at least two months.

SPUSD Sets Timetable for Online Education

Geoff Yantz

Distance learning is expected to begin for South Pasadena Unified School District students on Monday, April 6, when they would have expected to return to their classrooms from spring break.
Instead, their classrooms will now be wherever they have set up their books, supplies and possibly school-issued Chromebooks in their homes, on account of the ongoing closure of school facilities in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The online education, formally called the Independent Study Distance Learning Program, has been in development by SPUSD administrators and teachers since the district ordered schools closed after Friday, March 13.
“We’ve had a tremendous network of parents who have stepped up to show their support, and it’s been appreciated,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz said in a phone interview this week. “I know that the classroom teachers will be looking to parents for things to support them as they roll things out.”

Local Closures Mean Fewer Calls to Police, Fire Departments

Providers of city services have been forced to be nimble and adaptable in recent weeks, thanks to the ever-dynamic situation that is the global COVID-19 pandemic.
For more than two weeks now, it has been one falling domino after another as sports leagues have folded their seasons, school districts began multi-week closures and governments have gradually canceled public events and shut facilities as well as businesses. As the coronavirus has spread, those state and local governments have had to ensure that residents continue to have access to essential services and don’t have to fear the consequences of losing income, while simultaneously protecting public employees from possible infection.
First responders, for their part, are firing on all cylinders.
“We project to be fully staffed, with PPEs and EMS supplies throughout the duration of this crisis,” South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle told the City Council last week, referring to personal protective equipment and emergency medical services.
During his briefing on COVID-19 preparations, Riddle noted that calls for service were down about 30% since society began isolating itself as a result of the pandemic.
“That’s a good indication that the message is getting out to the community and they’re adhering to the instructions,” Riddle said. “That 30% reduction, as we kind of look at it, [means] traffic accidents are down. The calls for service are mainly medical related, and that’s kind of the norm throughout the region, from what I’m hearing.”
Police Chief Joe Ortiz also noted about a 35% drop in service calls in the same time frame, again pointing out that traffic collisions and enforcement in general had been reduced as a result.

City Syncs Efforts With County Mandates

With the county issuing the “Safer at Home” directive, South Pasadena officials have followed suit with implementing additional service and public restrictions to synchronize with containment efforts for the COVID-19 pandemic.
City buildings will remain closed to the public until further notice, with the police, fire, water, sewer and trash services continuing as normal. In the Community Services division, senior residents can continue to take advantage of the lunch program (by delivery only) and the Dial-A-Ride program to make necessary doctors’ appointments, pharmacy pickups or grocery trips. The Public Works Department will perform emergency responses, and administrative services have been cut back to essential functions such as payroll.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, there have been three residents of Region 31 — which comprises South Pasadena and San Marino — who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that often presents with flu-like symptoms but can cause death and has no cure or vaccine. The health department does not indicate where its patients are believed to have contracted the virus, or whether they are hospitalized or quarantined in their homes.

School District: Coronavirus Status Quickly Changing

By Camila Castellanos
The Review

The South Pasadena Unified School District has joined other nearby districts and canceled or postponed all public events that bring large groups of students or adults together, including field trips through May 1, shortly after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak now a pandemic on Wednesday.
The district will now move from virus containment procedures to a mitigation approach, which includes practicing social distancing measures, according to a statement from SPUSD Superintendent Geoff Yantz.
“School sites will provide you with more information about scheduled events in the next few days,” Yantz said. “Thank you for your patience. The SPUSD website now contains recent correspondence, infographics and helpful links for more information.”
He emphasized that although no one within the SPUSD has tested positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19, the district will enact, effective immediately, “proactive steps to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”

South Pasadena Secures 2nd Place in League

The South Pasadena High School varsity girls’ basketball team achieved one of its goals this season following a 67-32 rout over visiting Monrovia at the middle school on Tuesday.
With the big win, the Tigers (13-12 overall record) secured second place in the Rio Hondo League standings with a 5-2 record behind first-place La Cañada.
“We needed it,” said SPHS head coach Cody Madsen. “Our goal every year is to be first. Of course we’ll take second. We’re just trying to be more competitive every year, winning games and playing the right way. We did that tonight.”
The Tigers certainly put their talent on display and posted one of their most lopsided victories of the season.
“We’re senior heavy, and we have a lot of experienced players,” said Madsen. “We have a lot of people who have been in the program and competing with each other for a long time. Our team chemistry is amazing. They play for each other and they play hard. We have good young players as well. Allysan Tse and Alyssa Chan came in to play big minutes for us. From top to bottom, this is one of the deepest teams we’ve ever had.”

Miracle on Pasadena Avenue: Cos & Pi

Photos courtesy Sally Kilby
Casey Wiele (left) and Xochilt Perez pose outside their three-year-old neighborhood eatery, Cos & Pi, which is named after their children (Cosmo and Pirate).

Three years ago, a husband-and-wife team took a chance by opening Cos & Pi, a small neighborhood eatery in South Pasadena. They chose a nondescript building in an out-of-the-way part of the city on Pasadena Avenue to house their first restaurant.
Opening a restaurant in any locale is risky. Xochilt (pronounced So-chee) Perez and Casey Wiele (pronounced Wee-lee), however, had a vision. From the beginning, their focus has been on the food. They invested in quality and their steadfast commitment to it has paid off.
Cos & Pi, which is named for the owners’ children Cosmo and Pirate, is open for breakfast, lunch and brunch. They serve bacon, eggs, sausage, hamburgers and other basic fare.
“We make each one of those items as best as it can be,” Wiele said in an interview recently. “In cooking eggs, we use butter, not oil.” Many restaurants don’t do this because of the expense, he said.
The potatoes au gratin menu item offers an example of how much care goes into their food preparation. The potatoes are peeled and shredded and then added to a freshly prepared cheese sauce, Perez said.