Borrego Sun - Since 1949

By Martha Deichler
BSUSD School-Community Liaison 

Borrego Springs Unified School District Receives Prestigious County Health Award


Last updated 5/19/2021 at 2:02pm

The theme for this year’s 20th annual Live Well San Diego Public Health Champion Awards is “Building Bridges to Better Health”. This theme, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and Borrego Springs’ rural setting, were the perfect recipe for a successful partnership between the County of San Diego and the Borrego Springs Unified School District (BSUSD) to pilot a COVID-19 antigen testing program.

This partnership has resulted in BSUSD receiving the Public Health Champion Award in the Education K-12 Category on April 29. Presented by Dr. Wilma Wooten, Public Health Officer and Director of Public Health and Human Services for San Diego County, this virtual awards ceremony also included presentations by Health and Human Services Director Nick Macchione and County District 4 Supervisor and Board Chair Nathan Fletcher.

BSUSD was proudly joined in this award by Coronado Unified School District, Feeding San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital and UCSD School of Medicine, Pediatric Department. All of these institutions were recognized for their innovation, passion and drive to work together to keep our communities and residents safe during this most challenging COVID-19 pandemic.

The bridge building to better health began when Dr. Bruce Kelley and Betsy Knaak from the Borrego Springs COVID Task Force reached out to Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan, Dr. John Malone and Dr. Gregg Lichtenstein from the County’s Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases asking if our Borrego schools could be included in a pilot program for COVID-19 surveillance testing. This successful partnership has allowed students and staff to be tested on site regularly, with quick results, thereby allowing teaching and learning to continue uninterrupted. Prior to this program, any student or staff member showing signs of illness, had to be sent home immediately and wait days for test results.

This Public Health Champion Award must be shared with the folks who are the feet on the ground, make-it-happen, worker bees. To these individuals goes a heap of praise for hard work and dedication. Elementary Principal Sherrilynn Polanco and school district Nurse Virginia Miller are the planners and energy behind the surveillance testing. Their keen organizational skills and attention to the health and safety details are the reasons this program has been successful. The technology required to administer this program is extensive and our district’s “tech guy,” Richie Fuentes, stepped up to the plate with his formidable skills.

In addition, volunteer LVN Charles has been a dream come true with his professionalism, wit and passion for serving the health needs of our community of students and staff. None of this would be possible without the support of Superintendent Mark Stevens, who understands the importance of this program for keeping our schools open, safe and functioning.

In true Borrego fashion, we always come together as a community to problem solve and support one another. This award would not be possible without the support of our local COVID 19 Task Force, the financial support they receive from the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund, volunteers from the community and hardworking school support staff.

Congratulations to Borrego Springs!