Looking Inside the Community Health Office


Natasha Speiss/Chronicle

Community Health Officer Milo Sini and Head of Communication and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89 discuss the day’s student COVID-19 testing. The Community Health Office (CHO) recently began testing students individually in place of its previous use of weekly pooled testing; they now send results to families within 48 hours.

Natasha Speiss

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89 and Community Health Officer Milo Sini work with the school’s Community Health Office (CHO) to lead the school through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Founded in 2017, the CHO accommodates students’ health complications, plans school drills and oversees the general health of the student body. Sini is the first Community Health Officer at the school. He served as the Director of Sports Medicine from 2005 to 2017. 

Sini said he applied for the Community Health Officer position to make a larger positive impact on the student body.

I’ve always been a person who believes that [the middle and upper schools] are one school and one community,” Sini said. “We take care of everybody, and when [my current position] was created, it was an opportunity to use my expertise and knowledge to help the greater [school] community.”

Sini said COVID-19 occupies most of his time now, but much of the work that he does is the same as before the pandemic.

“A lot of [my] time is absorbed by COVID-19,” Sini said. “But my role in everything else, as far as the safety of the school goes, hasn’t changed. We still have plenty of those [individual-specific situations], and take care of each and every single one of those. Each person gets the attention that they need.”

Sini said he enjoys observing the positive outcomes of his planning.

“This is a school, and having people in it is what’s important,” Sini said. “I really have enjoyed helping create policies and a system that works. All of that, all the hours, all the days, all the time that’s been spent is ultimately what drives all of that [success]. It’s nice to know that the attitude is ‘I feel safe,’ [which is] shown by how many people are coming to school.”

When the pandemic hit, Engelberg began to work with Sini to co-manage the CHO. Engelberg said though he and Sini are the main leaders, faculty members like Chief Financial Officer David Weil, the sports medicine team, the former nurses, Discipline & Attendance Coordinator Gabriel Preciado and Attendance & Health Coordinator Brenda Simon assist the CHO, as well. 

“Technically there’s two of us directly in community health, but there’s a whole group of people who provide various supports who act on behalf of or in partnership with the [CHO],” Engelberg said. “[Sini and I] are quarterbacking these activities, but to continue with the sports analogy, a team needs players in order to work.”

The school’s local public health agency is the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH), which follows safety guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CADPH). The CADPH creates its policies based on the recommendations given by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), according to Engelberg. County guidelines override state guidelines if the counties’ recommendations are stricter.

Engelberg said the school has developed partnerships with testing facilities and pharmacies like MEND Urgent Care, Elements Pharmacy, Innovative Health Diagnostics and Spectrum Medical Supply to ensure the community’s safety.

“We have taken the guidelines that are required by the state and county, and supplemented them with resources and policies of our own that are consistent with those standards,” Engelberg said. “Weekly testing and these guidelines will help us stay as safe as possible and get students back on campus as fast as possible.”

Engelberg said he would describe community satisfaction with the CHO as a bell curve, since most people seem satisfied with the school’s response to COVID-19.

“In a community as big as ours, between the middle and upper schools, you’re going to have a wide range of opinions,” Engelberg said. “But the people who are really dissatisfied with our response you can probably count on one hand. We have chosen not to ignore [the county and state’s health guidelines], which is definitely inconvenient for some people. We appreciate the [school community’s] patience with [the CHO].”

When the leaders of the school go to their weekly meeting, proposals from the CHO about new school safety measures are often voiced, according to Associate Head of School Laura Ross. Ross said she feels grateful that the CHO is led by Sini and Engelberg.

“Engelberg is also on the board at [Cedars-Sinai Medical Center], and it seemed he was willing to take on a partnership with the [CHO after the pandemic hit],” Ross said. “We were so lucky that we already created this office and had [Engelberg] with the expertise and bandwidth to help lead it.”

Ross said she is inspired by the strength of the school community amid new protocols.

“We have the resources, the people and the goodwill,” Ross said. “Being at a school where kids want to be at school, teachers want to be teaching, people want to do what’s best, I feel like my goal is just to make this the best school year we possibly can with everything that’s coming at us.”