PJUSD’s COVID-19 specialist: Kiranjit Sandhu

At the beginning of the year, the Patterson Joint Unified School District continued their proactive approach to the pandemic by hiring a Covid-19 specialist to oversee all Covid related matters. This specialist was Kiranjit Sandhu. Sandhu joined the Irrigator for a phone interview Saturday morning to talk about her role in the district and community.

Sandhu comes from a first generation family of immigrants and was born and raised in a small Northern California community.

“So I was born and raised in Yuba City, California,” said Sandhu. “Which is about an hour North of Sacramento. It’s a pretty small town and as I was growing up it was a real tight-knit community.”

Sandhu said that her family, farmers from Punjab, India, value hard work and responsibility and that her family has always worked hard to achieve their goals.

“I was very family oriented,” said Sandhu. “I grew up in a Punjabi, Sikh household. I am a child of first generation immigrants from India. My parents taught responsibility, accountability and [to always] work hard...My Dad and my Mom emigrated from Punjab. They basically came here with nothing. My parents were raised, always in a really big farm and industrial industry in Punjab [where] it’s all about farming and great soil. So they left that to be able to come here where they are able to have a life where they get to work hard and [also] have the benefits.”

Sandhu graduated from Chico State University with a degree in Health Administration. After she graduated she started working at Rideout Health in Marysville under the Human Resources Department and from there she went to work for the Marysville Unified School District, but recently Sandhu relocated to Ceres after her marriage.

“I always grew up with that mindset [of working hard]. I attended Chico State where I graduated with my Bachelors in Health Administration. From there I worked at Rideout Health, in the Human Resources Department and then to Contracts and then from there I moved to the Marysville Joint Unified School District and I actually ended up moving to Ceres [last year] after I got married to my husband and that’s when I applied to Patterson and that's when I got this job and it’s been super amazing!”

Sandhu chose a career in Health Administration because although she believes frontline healthcare workers deserve all the credit for everything that they do, a lot happens behind the scenes as well, and that's where she wanted to be.

“I always thought that the health frontline workers do so much and that they deserve so much credit but there is also so much that happens behind the scenes that is so important,” said Sandhu. “I always wanted to be behind the scenes and I love knowing that I have supportive co-workers and supportive leadership and that definitely made my experience here in Patterson so much more than I ever could have expected.”

There are a lot of intricacies that come with being a Covid-19 Specialist for the School District, but some of Sandhu’s tasks include:

• Identifying Covid positive cases

• Contact tracing

• Communicating with parents and staff who have come in contact

• Keeping up with CDC and CDPH guidelines

• Conducting testing for staff

• Reporting to the County

It’s important to note that Sandhu’s position allows her to micro-focus on tasks and issues so that others in the district can continue their job duties without or with little Covid-related diversions.

“So a little bit of the stuff that my job entails is to obviously identify and contract trace Covid positive cases. I follow up with employees who have been tested to ensure that everyone is following all the Covid guidelines per the CDC and CDPH. [In addition] we are also having weekly meetings to make sure that we are up to date on guidelines and providing the best of the best for our district.”

Throughout the phone call Sandhu repeatedly brought up the fact that she is only a “piece of the puzzle,” and credited her co-workers and leadership at the district.

“I definitely cannot take all the credit for this,” said Sandhu. “I am only a piece of the puzzle here. I work alongside Tracy Manzoni, who is the Director of Student Services here and Assistant Superintendent, Joe Silveria. I definitely can say that I’m able to micro-focus on Covid-related stuff [because of them]”

On why having a Covid-19 Specialist is so important to the district.

“So in all honesty, I think every job that everybody has in the district is super important. I would just say right now [my job is important] because Covid is so widespread and it’s such a serious thing. It’s very important that they have a single designated person who is able to oversee that and I work really closely with the health staff who is amazing at making parent phone calls and gathering all the information [that] I need so that I’m able to do my research and provide students with the correct guidelines.”

Sandhu said that collecting information on Covid cases and testing is important because Patterson reports to the county directly. She said that parents and staff have been great at reporting outside testing and believes that we are moving in a positive direction. In addition, Sandhu believes most of the staff at PJUSD has been vaccinated.

“Parents and staff members are doing a really good job of reporting outside testing. As of right now just because Covid is so unexpected, we don’t know what Covid will look like in the future [but] as of now everything seems to be moving in a positive direction and I would say most of our staff is probably vaccinated…I think we are definitely going into the right direction of slowly going back into normal life.”

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