Newsletter: The latest on schools reopening

Rosie Roth, left, and Andie Bristow sit at a dining room table for typing class during home school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic on April 21 in Riverside.
Rosie Roth, left, and Andie Bristow sit at a dining room table for typing class during home school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in Riverside.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, May 21, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

When will California schools finally be back in session? And what, exactly, will the school day look like when students return to classrooms at long last? Don’t expect a single, unified answer across the state, according to state Supt. of Instruction Tony Thurmond.

During a news conference Wednesday, Thurmond said that most public school districts in California are planning to reopen campuses on their regular start dates in late August and September. But the decision on when to reopen will be made by each district, rather than a common opening date across the state.


[Read the story: “Most California school districts plan to open in the fall. Here’s how it would work” in the Los Angeles Times]

Like everything else in the world, classrooms will look a little different amid the coronavirus outbreak. The state Education Department is still working with public health officials, school leaders and workplace safety experts to compile safety guidelines, but masks and hand sanitizer will be a must. There will also probably be daily school sanitation and smaller class sizes to maintain physical distancing, and some school districts will probably offer a combination of in-person and distance learning.

Wednesday’s update came roughly two months after the pandemic forced California schools to shut down in in mid-March, disrupting the education of 6.1 million students.

As my education reporter colleague Sonali Kohli explains in her story, Gov. Gavin Newsom had previously announced that schools could physically open as early as July. But Thurmond said that although some schools may open early, many will end the school year when they normally do and take some time to plan for next year as well as “to address fatigue for educators.”

But a proposed budget cut of about $19 billion spread over the next two years for California schools will create further woes, as Thurman said the new safety accommodations will require more — and not less — funding for schools. The superintendent raised alarm bells about whether schools could safely reopen while implementing such deep cuts, and echoed the governor’s plea for additional federal aid for schools

Further resources and coverage on schools:

  • A student Q&A: What about grades? Coronavirus school closures? AP tests? College? Los Angeles Times
  • Still trying to get a handle on schooling from home? Home-schoolers have been doing this for a while, and they have some tips. Los Angeles Times
  • We need to prepare for the mental health effects of coronavirus on kids: Experts say that when kids return to campuses, the demand for mental health care will be greater than the available services, as the effects of the coronavirus disruptions cut across societal strata. Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Three months into California’s battle with the coronavirus, there are growing signs that the outbreak is ebbing, even as the state death toll continues to climb past 3,400. While deaths remain a stubborn challenge, other metrics analyzed by The Times show significant progress — enough that even some of the most cautious local health officials have agreed to begin reopening the economy. Los Angeles Times

Despite having one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in California, Tulare County vows to defy Newsom and further reopen. Tulare County officials have voted to reopen more businesses before meeting the health criteria set by the state. They plan to move the county all the way to Phase 3 of California’s reopening road map, which would allow movie theaters, shopping malls, salons and gyms to reopen. (To be clear, the state as a whole is not yet in Phase 3. The governor’s plan allows for regional variation, but not hopscotching forward on your own without clearance.) Los Angeles Times



Homeless advocates and Mayor Eric Garcetti have expressed qualms about a federal judge’s sweeping order to move thousands of homeless people away from freeways, with fears that it could lead to confrontations with police and endanger the health of those living on the streets during the coronavirus outbreak. “There’s ethical issues. There’s health issues. And then there’s just logistical issues,” Garcetti told The Times. “I don’t know who could enforce this besides a law enforcement officer. I don’t think I want those images. That’s not good for us. That’s not good for the people who are traumatized on the streets.” Los Angeles Times

A month inside the COVID-19 war room with Garcetti: L.A. Mag’s latest cover story is a profile of the mayor as he commands a city in crisis. Los Angeles Magazine

Larry Aubry, “the godfather of South-Central Los Angeles,” has died at 86. Aubry’s decades of social, political and community activism on issues including black education, job training, police accountability, fair housing and reparations shaped his life — and the city around him. Los Angeles Times

Larry Aubry outside the Southern California Library at 61st and Vermont. Aubry’s years of columns for the Los Angeles Sentinel are part of the library’s collection.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)


“If a councilman asked Ray, ‘What does two and two equal?’ he would answer by saying, ‘What do you want it to equal?’ ” Here’s a closer look at Raymond Chan, the former deputy mayor enmeshed in the City Hall corruption probe. Los Angeles Times

The fall of the World Famous KROQ? “The iconic Los Angeles station is on life support — and it has nothing to do with coronavirus.” Variety

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Imperial County’s only two hospitals stopped taking COVID-19 patients delivered by ambulance Tuesday, citing a sudden surge of admissions linked to cross-border traffic originating in Mexicali. Los Angeles Times


The Supreme Court has blocked the release of Mueller grand jury materials to the House, for now: The high court granted an emergency appeal from President Trump’s lawyers and blocked House Democrats — for now — from examining grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he will defy a subpoena from a civilian oversight board to testify about jail safety during the novel coronavirus crisis. The subpoena was issued by the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission earlier this month after Villanueva did not comply with previous requests to appear before the board. Los Angeles Times


America’s pandemic patchwork: The coronavirus is coursing through different parts of the U.S. in different ways, making the crisis harder to predict, control or understand. The Atlantic


California is playing catch-up on coronavirus contact tracing as counties push to reopen: A Desert Sun analysis suggests more than 40% of California counties do not meet the state’s contact tracing reopening standards and 94% do not meet the testing metric, based on information provided by responding counties. Desert Sun

Is it safe to swim in a pool, lake or the ocean? Ahead of the holiday weekend, here are answers to all your water-related coronavirus questions. (And for the record, many experts say yes, go ahead.) Los Angeles Times


Twitter is testing a new setting that lets users limit who can reply to their tweets. Only a “limited group” can use the test feature right now, though anyone with a Twitter account can view the conversations. TechCrunch

Huge news for people who currently desire standing in a narrow alley in close proximity to decades of other people’s spit-touched bubblegum: San Luis Obispo’s “Bubblegum Alley” is open now. But officials say they are monitoring the popular landmark and have a plan to cut off access with temporary barriers if it gets too crowded. San Luis Obispo Tribune


You’re not imagining it, there really is a garlic shortage. “While other factors have contributed to the deficit, the shelter-in-place orders are the main reason shoppers may be finding no garlic, unusually sized garlic or more-expensive garlic in grocery stores,” as the surge in home cooking has led to increased demand. Mercury News

Many Napa Valley restaurants reopened Wednesday, as Napa County became the first region in the Bay Area to get approval from the state to reopen restaurants for full service. But customers are slow to return. Los Angeles Times


A Ceres teen lost his class ring right after graduating. Here’s how it got returned — three decades later. Modesto Bee

A street in the Haight closed to traffic becomes a stage for professional cello concerts. “Page Street near Clayton Street has become an unlikely oasis for sporadic classical music concerts with the audience plopped in the middle of the street, sitting on curbs or just standing wherever they please.” San Francisco Chronicle


Creativity during quarantine: Twenty-four writers, musicians, artists, actors and others on what they’re discovering about art and themselves in this time of isolation. GQ

A poem, of sorts, to start your Thursday: “The Merton Prayer” by Thomas Merton. Yale Divinity School

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Los Angeles: sunny, 80. San Diego: sunny, 73. San Francisco: windy, 69. San Jose: sunny, 76. Fresno: sunny, 87. Sacramento: sunny, 84. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Linda Davis:

Our family relocated to Orange County in 1978 and we purchased a home in north Irvine, which seemed the middle of nowhere. The town was bookended by Irvine Ranch open air market on the north and University of California on the south. In between, Culver Drive ran along agricultural fields and orange groves between the 5 and 405 freeways. The smell of fertilizer and eucalyptus trees permeating through our windows, along with the whistle of Amtrak, the whirling of helicopters from Tustin’s Marine base and the military air traffic from El Toro’s Marine air station, quickly became familiar. We ran outdoors, craning our necks to gaze at the Blue Angels’ maneuvers above while blocking our ears from the intensity of their flyovers.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.