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SPUSD to Expand TK Program

First published in the Jan. 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Transitional kindergarten at South Pasadena Unified School District will be expanding in the coming years, in accordance with California legislation.
By the 2025-26 school year, SPUSD will be serving 12 months of transitional kindergarten for students who will have a 4th birthday by Sept. 1.
“Having a two-year kinder program is a gift,” said Christiane Gervais, assistant superintendent of instructional services, at the board’s Tuesday meeting. “For a school district, it’ll come with some challenges because we’ll have 4 year olds on campus and 4 year olds have different developmental needs. But in the end, it’s good for kids.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the TK-12 Education Trailer Bill (AB 130) in July. The legislation detailed multiple changes in education, including expanding the currently optional transitional kindergarten so that all school districts offer it to their 4 year olds by 2025-26.
Starting in the 2022-23 school year, the TK enrollment cutoff will be pushed back two months every year, increasing the amount of time a student will spend in TK.
For example, a student whose 5th birthday falls on or between Sept. 2 and Feb. 2 will have five months of transitional kindergarten for the 2022-23 school year. In 2023-24, a student whose birthday is on or between Sept. 2 and April 2 will have seven months of TK.
With a two-month expansion every school year, SPUSD is essentially adding an entire grade level with the goal of preparing students as best as possible for kindergarten.
The district will be receiving a $140,369 grant to aid in the expansion. What the district can use the money for is still in development, but SPUSD is taking into consideration available classroom space, staffing and credential requirements, curricula and furniture.
The plan will have board approval before June.
“That is the biggest challenge with all of this,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz said. “We are a district that doesn’t receive the same amount of funding as others on a [per]-student basis. When you talk about your expenses, it’s not only for the teacher but everything else that goes into it.”
Transitional kindergarten first came about with the introduction of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010. It changed the birth eligibility for students so that they had to turn 5 by Nov. 1 to begin kindergarten in the 2012-13 school year.
With the changing expectations for students, the state wanted those entering kindergarten to be older and more prepared, and TK was introduced.
“I was on the board when we first started to roll in the TK program,” board member Michele Kipke said, “and I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to work, but it’s pretty clear that those kids get so much out of that year. To be able to offer it in this way, it’s a lot of work, but it’s just so good for our kids.”

Powerball Player Rakes in $1.3 Million

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review Ana Menendez proudly shows off her South Pasadena Chevron store’s new claim to fame — having sold a $1.3 million Powerball ticket this month.

First published in the Jan. 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Luck is the name of the game when it comes to purchasing a lottery ticket and one Powerball customer of the Chevron gas station at 1400 Mission St. — whose numbers matched five last Wednesday — has won a prize of more than $1.3 million.
The South Pasadena ticket — worth $1,303,479 to be exact — was one of 14 tickets that also had five numbers, with the exclusion of the Powerball number, 17. The other numbers drawn were 6, 14, 25, 33 and 46.
Ana Menendez, who has worked at the Mission Street Chevron for 15 years, said she sold the winning ticket last week to a regular player, who exclusively picks his own ball-drawn numbers rather than selecting the quick pick option that uses random, auto-generated numbers. This was the first large prize-winning ticket she has ever sold.
The winner didn’t immediately realize he had won a prize, Menendez said, until he came to the gas station Monday to check his numbers.
“He’s one of my favorite customers,” she said. “I’m very happy for him.”
The odds of matching all five numbers and the Powerball number is 1 in 292.2 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association.
Two ticket holders, however, ended up scoring tickets from Sacramento and Wisconsin convenience stores with all six numbers — winning a $316.3 million jackpot each. The $632.6 million prize total is the seventh largest in Powerball’s 29-year history and 11th largest in U.S. lottery history, according to the association that conducts the game.
The winners will have the choice between receiving the $316.3 million jackpot in 30 graduated payments over 29 years, or a lump sum payment of $225.1 million.
The Powerball game is played in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mitch Lehman contributed to this report.

Omicron Stressing Hospitals

First published in the Jan. 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Hospitals in Los Angeles County continue to contend with an Omicron variant-driven wave of COVID-19, which is not yet proving as deadly as last year’s winter surge but is nevertheless putting pressure on medical system functions.
Early into the wave, hospitals in the county were reporting that many of their inpatients with COVID-19 were found to have the disease during the admittance screening process — in other words, they didn’t seek hospital care because of the coronavirus. With the results of Christmas gatherings starting to show, and the subsequent New Year’s Eve gatherings due, the picture is starting to change, officials are saying.
“Most of our COVID patients that we have admitted are sick with COVID,” said Dr. Kimberly Shriner, director of infection prevention and control at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. “The vast majority of those that have severe disease are unvaccinated — same old story — but we are seeing some people who have been vaccinated and boosted and are hospitalized because of, for example, an immune system disorder.”
According to Huntington’s online dashboard, the hospital had 107 inpatients with COVID-19 on Wednesday, an increase by five from the prior day; 60% of them were unvaccinated. The hospital had 12 patients in the intensive care unit with COVID-19, a decrease by two from the prior day and of whom 10 were unvaccinated.
With ERs being inundated with patients concerned about the COVID-19 symptoms or diagnoses, officials are urging those people to avoid seeking emergency care unless they’re experiencing breathing difficulties, severe weakness or severe fevers. Hospitals are not public testing centers, so those seeking tests should consult covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.
And if you do get a positive test result, with mild or no symptoms?
“Hunker down, stay home, drink fluids. Isolate yourself. Don’t spread it,” said Dr. David Tashman, the emergency department director at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale. “Reserve the emergency department really for emergencies.”
The Omicron variant has caused daily confirmed cases in Los Angeles County to skyrocket past previous records, with numbers ranging from 32,000-47,000 for much of the past two weeks. Daily new deaths — a lagging indicator — are now increasing after falling for much of the past month. Hospitalizations are also a lagging indicator, given the incubation time for the disease.
“Illness just started spiking two weeks ago,” said Tashman, “so we’re just starting to see hospitalization numbers now. It’s still relatively small — this time last year, we had 80 hospitalizations, so it’s a lower magnitude. But the curve is basically the same. We might have 80 next week. Who knows?”
On Wednesday, USC-VHH had 32 inpatients with COVID-19, three of whom were in intensive care.
Shriner described Omicron — known for its high infectiousness, often breaking through vaccinations, but for also producing a less aggressive disease — as “the match that lit the fire.” Emergency room visits this week were in the low 100s each day, and there was a day last week with 242 ER patients.
“It’s still brisk, but it’s a little tamer,” Shriner noted.
Although ICUs have not yet been pushed to the edge as they were a year ago, medical centers are now contending with staffing shortages on account of doctors, nurses and technicians catching the disease and having to quarantine anywhere from five to 10 days, depending on whether they have symptoms. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that some hospitals are bringing asymptomatic personnel back prior to their recommended five days simply because of the dire straits.
“We’re dealing with health care professionals, who love what they do, but they’re exhausted because they’ve been doing this for two years,” Shriner said. “Now they’re being stretched even more thin because of workers being out sick with Omicron.”
There was some hope, at least in Shriner’s eyes. The doctor, who made a career of HIV research and treatment before COVID-19 consumed her life, speculated that L.A. County could reach its peak within the month, based on data from nations such as South Africa that are emerging from their own Omicron waves.
“I think we’re beginning to approach the summit,” she said. “We kind of bob around at the top — it goes up, down, then up and then we go over the edge and we’re on the other side.”
Shriner added that Huntington’s trauma center — the primary such center for the area — remains relatively uninhibited, for now, from the situation. Huntington took in six trauma patients on Monday, she said.
“[Our staff] knows how to do this, they’re really good at it and they’re doing it,” Shriner said. “They’re tired and kind of annoyed by people who won’t get vaccinated, but they’re doing their job.”

South Pasadena Police Department Crime Report

First published in the Jan. 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

An 18-year-old South Pasadena man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after allegedly being involved in a traffic collision in the 500 block of Camino Verde at 12:54 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 8.

A Hyundai Tucson SUV was reported stolen from where it was parked in the 1800 block of State Street sometime between 2 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, and 7 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

A Ford F150 pickup truck was reported stolen from where it was parked in the 1000 block of Mission Street sometime from 1:44-2:13 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 6.

A Toyota Tacoma pickup truck was recovered by the Alhambra Police Department after being reported stolen from where it was parked in the 1700 block of Mission Street from 8:44-9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5.

Catalytic converters were reported stolen from the following vehicles:
• A Toyota Prius parked in the 700 block of Orange Grove Avenue at 3:03 a.m. Monday, Jan. 10. The thief was described as a bald heavyset Hispanic man wearing dark clothing, and he was with another man wearing dark clothing.
• A Honda Accord sedan parked in the 800 block of Mission Street sometime from 2:18-2:39 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

An unidentified man wearing a hoodie, mask, gloves, dark pants and black shoes and carrying a messenger bag was seen prying open a laundry room door at an apartment complex in the 600 block of Prospect Avenue and then prying open laundry machine coinboxes starting at 3:57 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

A cash register and lockbox containing money were reported stolen from Charlie’s Coffee House on Monterey Road sometime between 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, and 5:55 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, after an intruder broke through a window.

A bicycle was reported stolen from a storage area in an apartment parking lot after the thief unscrewed the metal hinges to its door at 5:32 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 9.

An unidentified person driving a white sedan was seen attempting to steal a catalytic converter from a Toyota Prius parked in the 700 block of Orange Grove Avenue at around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

There were hit-and-runs reported in the following locations:
• The 1100 block of Fair Oaks Avenue at 6:47 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10
• The 900 block of Adelaine Avenue at 5:37 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7
• The 900 block of Fair Oaks Avenue at 12:59 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6
• The 600 block of Prospect Avenue at 3:51 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6
• The 1300 block of Monterey Road at 8:14 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5

An unknown person was reported to have tried to pry open the door to Foremost Liquor on Monterey Road at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

A window was reported to have been damaged at a home in the 1100 block of Pine Street sometime from 3:34-4:08 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

A package was reported stolen from the front porch of a home in the 300 block of Alta Vista Avenue sometime between Friday, Dec. 24, and Saturday, Jan. 1.

A 37-year-old Temple City woman was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine after police responded to a report of a disturbance in the 300 block of Pasadena Avenue at 6:23 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6.

Mail was reported stolen from multiple mailboxes in the 200 block of Monterey Road at around 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30.

These alleged crimes and incidents were reported to the South Pasadena Police Department between Tuesday, Jan. 4, and Monday, Jan. 10. Information was gathered from a weekly crime summary published by SPPD’s Crime Prevention Unit.

Human Rights Film Debuts at Laemmle

First published in the Jan. 14 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

The human rights advocacy film, “Unsilenced,” will make its theatrical release at the Pasadena Laemmle on Jan. 21 with the co-sponsorship of Amnesty International Group 22, which hopes to raise awareness about human rights in China ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Mother and daughter team Wen Chen and Sylvia Wang, activists for Amnesty International Group 22 who live in Pasadena, will host a Q&A session on behalf of the nonprofit organization after the opening night show. Chen and Wang will answer audience questions about human rights in China and raise awareness about individuals such as Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been “disappeared” for years in China.

Exhausted Healthcare Workers Keep Riding COVID Wave

First published in the Dec. 31 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Try to imagine yourself as a doctor, nurse or staff member who is involved in treating COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease and tropical medicine specialist as well as the medical director of infection prevention and control Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, described COVID-19 as “the pandemic of the millennium” because of the terrible loss of life. For those on the front lines — from doctors to staff — the pandemic just keeps coming.
“It’s like riding a wave,” Shriner said. “It crests and then there is a little lull and then the next one hits. … It’s a frightening experience.”
Sometimes things get so tense that Shriner must check in with her hospital’s physicians to give them a pep talk.

Rose Princess Stays Afloat in Service

Princess Ava Feldman

First published in the Dec. 31 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Walking three blocks down to Orange Grove Boulevard from her South Pasadena home to watch the Rose Parade floats line up on New Year’s Eve is a fond tradition Ava Feldman has participated in nearly her entire life.
Sometimes the festivities wouldn’t end at midnight for Feldman, but resume hours later at 5 a.m., when her father would wake her up to get another glimpse of the floats before they proceeded to the parade route.
This year, the same girl who grew up admiring the floats as a child will be riding atop one as a Rose Princess with her fellow Royal Court members — a reality that still seems surreal to Feldman, 17, who is excited to take in the final experiences of what she and her newfound “friends for life” consider to be the first stop of their Pasadena Tournament of Roses farewell tour.

At Year’s End, Life Edges Toward ‘New Normal’

With mitigation measures like weekly testing and mask-wearing in place, the South Pasadena Unified School District began the 2021-22 year with full in-person instruction, doing away with the remote and hybrid model that dominated the previous school year.

First published in the Dec. 31 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Oscar Areliz and Christian Leonard contributed to this report.

Many activities returned in person in 2021. Few returned the same.
The coronavirus pandemic induced a wave of changes — some small, others major — across the United States, California and South Pasadena in 2021. COVID-19, which has killed more than 800,000 U.S. residents, still leered over the resumption of public events, face-to-face classes and crowd-thronged sports games. And with the rise of the virus’ Delta variant, as well as the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant, officials announced additional restrictions and requirements, often centered around the coronavirus vaccines.

Arroyo Vista Expands Outdoor Learning Space

Photos courtesy Arroyo Vista Elementary School First grade students at Arroyo Vista Elementary School enjoy the recently renovated outdoor learning space.

First published in the Dec. 17 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

South Pasadena Unified School District campuses are known for using every square inch of classroom space to benefit the students.

Assemblyman’s Shoe Drive Collects Nearly 100 Pairs

Photo courtesy office of Chris Holden Collecting shoes for children in need are CHP public information officer Vince Ramirez, Assemblyman Chris Holden, Santa Claus, and Dan Stump, director of operations for Shoes That Fit.

First published in the Dec. 17 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Assemblyman Chris Holden’s annual shoe drive, with community partner Shoes That Fit, collected about 100 pairs of new athletic shoes to school-aged children in need.