CharterNation Podcast: The Need for COVID Response Teams

CharterNation Podcast: The Need for COVID Response Teams

By: Angella Martinez,
CEO of KIPP SoCal Public Schools

My job used to be making sure students were receiving a rigorous and joyful educational experience that would prepare them for college and beyond. That’s still my job. But the roughly 600,000 of us who work in public education in California now have a second job: health care professionals. 

Hear Angella Martinez's "Audio Postcard" Segment at 21:04

We monitor virus mutations and respond swiftly to sudden surges of infections. We vigilantly enforce safety protocols, from proper mask-wearing to hand-washing to social distancing. We track down parents in the middle of the day to pick up children who might have been exposed to COVID. 

My team members come to me overwhelmed, overworked, unable to understand why local or state officials are not sending reinforcements. 

To its credit, the Biden administration has sent extra federal funding to help public schools cope with COVID. But we need expertise. The pandemic remains a medical emergency — one that wreaks disproportionate havoc on communities and people of color. Government should respond accordingly. 

Officials should equip each public school campus with a pandemic response team. The teams could consist of professionals with varying degrees of experience and certification; what’s important is to have more staff on hand with medical training. 

These trained health care professionals would manage the medical workload that is now being left to teachers, principals, librarians and social workers. They would advise and enforce safety protocols; manage COVID screenings and contact tracing; coordinate with the parents and guardians of students who need to quarantine at home; and share information about and perhaps even administer vaccinations.

With COVID management off of our plates, teachers and school administrators could devote our energy to what we’re best at: planning science lessons, helping our middle-schoolers choose which high school they’ll enroll in, counseling students in crisis, and so much more.  

Right now, educators are looking at another school year of conducting crisis management. It is not too late for public officials to send us the health care experts and coordinated support we need. 

This audio commentary was originally published on California Charter Schools Association's CharterNation Podcast

About the Author: 

Angella Martinez is currently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at KIPP SoCal Public Schools, as of July 1, 2021. Angella was formerly KIPP SoCal's Chief Academic Officer (CAO). Prior to becoming CAO, Angella served as the Principal at KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory School in Boyle Heights. In her first year as Principal, the school increased 101 Academic Performance Index points, making it the seventh highest performing middle school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Prior to becoming principal and upon completing her undergraduate studies at UCLA, Angella joined Teach for America corps where she taught at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary for six years. While teaching, she helped the school become the first California Distinguished School in the Compton Unified School District. To broaden her impact in transforming public education, Angella left the classroom to work for the KIPP Foundation as the Recruitment Manager where she sought new KIPP school leader candidates for the highly competitive Fisher and Miles Family Fellowships. While recruiting, Angella found her passion in educational leadership and became a KIPP school leader successor in 2008.