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PCS Newsletter 10/1/21

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PCS Newsletter
Dear PCS Community,

It is hard to believe that October is already here!

I want to start by highlighting and echoing our county Superintendent Dr. Steve Herrington’s call for civility and kindness within our schools and community. As a community still grappling with the aftershocks of local fires and an ongoing pandemic, there is an overwhelming sense of frustration, worry, and exhaustion that is taking a toll on each and every one of us. I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Herrington when he states: “we are stronger when we are unified” and “let us find ways to disagree respectfully while working towards common solutions.” In these moments, we need to support one another in assuming best intent and modeling civility, as fellow Petalumans.

With the California Department of Public Health’s foundational principle of ensuring that “all students must have access to safe and full in-person instruction and to as much instructional time as possible” in mind, our sole reliance on PCR tests and Valencia Branch Labs has caused students to miss too many days of school when the testing process takes longer than it should. We are exploring a number of options to remedy this situation as quickly as possible. For now, we wanted to let you know that after much consideration, we are working to introduce the updated Abbot BinaxNow Rapid Antigen Tests into our COVID-19 testing ecosystem. The greatest benefit of the rapid antigen test is that it is fast, typically providing results in 15 minutes, and therefore offers us more control in our overall efforts to keep non-infectious students in school. PCR tests are still a critical component to keeping school communities safe and will certainly remain a fundamental aspect of our testing strategy. However, our goal is to keep students safe and in school, so we also want to be sure we are leveraging every option available to us to complement our PCR testing program. There will be more details to follow in the coming weeks but, for now I wanted to notify you that we are actively pursuing adding Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen tests to our testing strategy.

On a personal note, I am happy to announce that my family welcomed our fifth child on August 24th. Gianna Colette is now five weeks old and both she and my wife are healthy and doing well. While there is not a lot of sleep at our house, it’s such a joy to be home with my five member “basketball team'' and to see all our children together.

As I come out of the fog of having a 5-week-old baby, I want to invite you to attend Superintendent Office Hours at your site. My hope is to have a candid conversation with you, the PCS community, about all the great things happening at each site as well as any constructive feedback you may have for the District. I am interested in hearing specifically about what is working for our students and what we can do differently to serve them better. On your site’s designated day, I’d like to invite teachers and staff to come and share their feedback from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM and then parents and community members from 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM. Please see below for a list of dates and locations for these office hours. I hope to see you there.

In partnership,

Matthew Harris
Superintendent, Petaluma City Schools
Superintendent Office Hours
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (staff) / 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM (students and families)
Date  Site Location on campus
Monday, October 4th Grant Picnic tables in the amphitheater
Monday, October 11th San Antonio / Valley Oaks Picnic tables in the quad
Wednesday, October 13th McDowell Picnic tables
Tuesday, October 19th McNear Picnic tables in front of the multi
Wednesday, October 20th Petaluma Junior Picnic tables in the quad
Monday, October 25th McKinley / PACS at McKinley Picnic tables in the garden
Wednesday, October 27th Penngrove Picnic tables in the garden
Monday, November 1st Casa Grande / Sonoma Mountain OLE Garden
Wednesday, November 3rd Petaluma High / Carpe Diem Picnic tables in the main quad
Monday, November 8th Kenilworth Junior Multi-use room/ just outside multi.
Wednesday, November 17th Valley Vista Patio near the pumpkin patch---enter thru red gate at front office
Monday, November 29th Adult Ed and all non-PCS sites of our South County Consortium program (to be held at the Family Resource Center at McDowell School) McD Cluster, Room A3
Tuesday, November 30th Cherry Valley Tables to the right of the Lodge or TBA if raining- maybe in the Lodge
COVID-19 Updates
Our COVID testing site at the District Office has officially been open for two weeks and while our earnest hope is that it has offered some help and support to families and staff, we acknowledge that testing delays have kept students out of school. Superintendent Harris’ update outlines a number of steps we are taking to improve this experience for students, staff and families, but we also want to provide some information on the current testing environment and other options.

Since testing appointments have been difficult to get in our county recently, we set up testing at our District Office. Tests administered at the district office before 12:00 PM are sent to Valencia Branch Labs for processing via overnight delivery. The lab then typically provides test results via text and/or email 24 - 48 hours, after receiving the sample. While we have done our best to make testing accessible, we cannot necessarily offer you the quickest turnaround times.  

For potentially quicker alternatives, in the COVID Hub on our website there is an icon entitled COVID-19 Testing and Tracing in Sonoma County. This is a link to the County website, which has information on free testing and a calendar of testing sites and hours each day. Some of the providers listed there, like Molecular Matrix, guarantee delivery of results by midnight the day following the test. You can schedule an appointment directly through that site and they may be a quicker, more reliable alternative.

We are trying to implement testing strategies that will keep our school community safe while getting kids back to school as quickly as possible, including the use of BinaxNow Rapid Antigen Tests. In the meantime, we want you to be aware of our testing solution as well as its limitations so that you can take advantage of an option that will best serve you.
Online School Menus
We want to make sure all of our families are aware that school lunch and breakfast menus are always available online. You can find them using this direct link to our Online Menus or by going to any school or District website, clicking on the Food Services button, and then clicking on the Menus button. (How to Find Online Menus for PCS Video) Please note that the menus are subject to change based on availability.
Upcoming Classified Job Fair - 10/11/21
Have you ever thought about working in education and making a difference in the lives of children in our community? Consider a job with us at Petaluma City Schools! We will be hosting an In-person Job Fair on October 11th from 3-6 PM in the Family Resource Center at McDowell Elementary, located at 421 S. McDowell Blvd.

This job fair is for all classified positions, including bus drivers, food services staff, instructional assistants, and more! You can find a list of all of our open classified positions on EdJoin here. We have both full-time as well as flexible, part-time positions. For us to best serve students, we need the community's help in getting fully staffed. If you aren't looking for yourself, share this information with someone you know! Please wear a mask and bring your resume— we hope to see you there!
PCS Student and Family Engagement
Upcoming Events
Click the links below for more information Please use the Student and Family Engagement Ideas Form to share any ideas that you would like us to consider for student and family engagement. These events should be for the whole district, all elementary, or all secondary. Contact Gina Roberts at with any questions.

Elementary Soccer League
We are in full soccer mode and the kids are already building their soccer skills!

Staff BBQ
PCS staff joined together at Stafford Lake this past weekend to build community and enjoy some time as a District-wide staff. Thank you to all staff and family members who were able to join us!


Wellness Corner
Welcome! My name is Jimena Gomez, your new Wellness Coordinator. I am a Petaluma resident and was a student in Petaluma City Schools. I attended both KJHS and CGHS and graduated from California State University, East Bay with a BA in Business Administration before working as an Event Coordinator for the San Mateo Sheriff's Office where I coordinated family and law enforcement community engagement. I also worked as the Deputy Director for non-profit Bay Area Gardener Scholarship Foundation, where I managed the scholarship program and educational events for low-income families. Most recently, I worked for the City of Oakland in their Finance Department. I am English/Spanish bilingual. In my new role as your Wellness Coordinator, I hope to bring resources and support to our students, families, and staff by working with community-based organizations in order to develop a system of support for our community.

Student Voice Forums
Recently, the Sonoma County Office of Education organized Student Voice Forums in an attempt to understand a variety of perspectives on our schools. In the same vein, PCS is organizing several secondary student voice forums to allow students to share their life experiences with our community of learners. Our first of several student forums will take place on November 16, 2021 at 6:00 PM and will highlight our Black Indegenous People of Color (BIPOC) students. These forums are a great venue to hear directly from our BIPOC student community. If you are a student who is interested in sitting on the panel and sharing your thoughts, please contact our District Wellness Coordinator, Jimena Gomez, at

Parent Workshops
Are you looking for support and parenting ideas? The following free online workshops are sponsored by the Child Parent Institute (CPI) in the coming weeks:

More information and helpful workshops found on the CPI website.


In the News: Casa Grande Students Help Save Endangered Coho Salmon
Students at Casa Grande stepped up to help rescue endangered Coho Salmon! Wildlife officials have moved several thousand coho to Casa's state-of-the-art, student-run fish hatchery, which promotes environmental awareness and activism through hands-on habitat restoration. This week, ABC7 News came by to see the hatchery and interview students about the experience. Check out the San Francisco Chronicle's article and/or the ABC7 News piece to find out more!

On top of that, when the President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and other AFT officers and members came to visit our schools last month, the group captured some of what they saw on film and made this wonderful video about both the Petaluma Wildlife Museum and the Casa Grande hatchery.


New Electric Buses
Check out the new electric school buses we have in our fleet! Petaluma City Schools was awarded nearly $1M in funding through the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust for California to purchase five all-electric, zero-emission school buses. The district has already taken delivery of three electric buses, two with capacity for 78 students and one for 66 students. One of the buses is currently transporting students to and from the Coast Guard Base in West Petaluma. The remaining two buses will accommodate students with wheelchair needs and are expected to arrive before the end of the year. Driver training is already under way. Electric buses will be added to more routes as more electric buses are delivered to the district and drivers receive training.

A second grant has been secured through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District that provides funding for 12 more electric buses this year, plus the infrastructure to support them. These two programs have helped the district transition from old, polluting diesel school buses to zero-emissions vehicles, improving the health of our community by limiting the exposure to transportation-related air pollution and building a greener environment. In addition to health and environmental benefits, we expect a savings of up to 80% in fuel and up to 50% in maintenance costs over traditional diesel-powered buses. A big thank you and congratulations to Marcia Short, Director of Transportation, and Chief Business Official, Chris Thomas, for all their hard work to secure these grants!


Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo
Please see the message below from Petaluma Active 20-30 #30 about this year's Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo.

The Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo is a bike race for kids. Each year, through kid-activated fundraising and the community effort of Petaluma and the surrounding area, the Fondo raises money for local families of children dealing with life-threatening illnesses or disabilities- We call these brave kids our Heroes. You can find out how to participate and learn more about our heroes (both are seniors in high school this year) on the Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo webpage.


Student Accident & Sickness Insurance Renewal – 2021-2022 School Year
The safety of our students is of critical importance to all of us and we want to protect them from injury. Even so, accidents do happen at school and elsewhere and required medical care can be expensive. Please know that your school does not assume responsibility for such costs, but does offer you access to several student accident insurance plans for voluntary purchase. Details about Student Accident & Sickness Insurance can be found in the Current Families section of our website.


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