Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Back to (online) school

A person walks past Grand View Boulevard Elementary School with a marquee that still reads "No School"
A pedestrian walks past Grand View Boulevard Elementary School with a marquee that still reads “No School” in Mar Vista on Monday.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, July 18.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

L.A. schools won’t reopen. Los Angeles Unified School District campuses will not reopen for in-person classes on Aug. 18. The nation’s second-largest school system will continue with online learning until further notice, the product of a difficult but unavoidable decision, Supt. Austin Beutner said Monday.


Nor will most others in California. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced far more sprawling closure plans. Under new rules, public school campuses in the 32 counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list will not reopen when the academic year begins and instead will continue full-time distance learning in response to the summer surge in coronavirus cases.

Other reopenings are rolled back. Newsom announced statewide restrictions Monday to halt all indoor dining and close bars, zoos and museums, again, plus gyms, houses of worship, hair salons and malls in most counties. The state also set new priority rules for testing. Meanwhile, Californians are turning on each other like never before.

Did we reopen too soon? In documentation that counties submitted to the state attesting to their readiness for reopening, 17 wrote that they did not meet Newsom’s testing and tracing benchmarks. The state approved their requests anyway.

Problems with distance learning. Los Angeles’ Black and Latino middle and high school students had low rates of online school participation after campuses closed this spring, as did English learners, students with disabilities, homeless students and those in the foster-care system, new data show, reflecting deep disparities in internet access.

Rule and reversal. California’s three public higher education systems joined a legal fight against a federal directive that would have barred international students from staying in the U.S. if their schools used full-time distance learning in the fall. Then, facing a national backlash, the White House rescinded the policy.

DACA‘s uncertain future. Legal experts and lawmakers say President Trump is venturing onto increasingly shaky legal ground as officials reject new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, sidestepping a Supreme Court ruling reinstating the program. Nearly 200,000 DACA recipients live in California.

UC gets more diverse. In a historic shift, Latinos make up the largest share of prospective freshmen accepted into the University of California for fall 2020, part of the system’s largest and most diverse first-year class ever admitted. Latinos slightly eclipsed Asian Americans for the first time.

Communities at risk. Amid California’s latest surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Latino residents make up nearly 39% of the state’s population but 55% of its COVID-19 cases, according to new numbers. The disproportionate impact has led to growing calls to do more to protect essential workers.


LAPD data fallout. As a scandal over false and inaccurate gang identifications by Los Angeles police officers widens, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Tuesday barred law enforcement agencies from using LAPD records in a controversial statewide database. But police reform advocates said his action did not go far enough.

Church destroyed. A large fire severely damaged the San Gabriel Mission Church on July 11, destroying the roof and gutting much of the interior. The 249-year-old mission is one of California’s most historic landmarks, sacred ground for the Catholic faithful but also a symbol of a system that enslaved and terrorized indigenous peoples.

Naya Rivera found dead. Authorities said Monday that a body found in Lake Piru was that of actress Naya Rivera, who had disappeared five days earlier during a boat outing with her young son. The Ventura County medical examiner ruled her death an accidental drowning.

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1. Trump has “never been loved,” niece writes in new book. Los Angeles Times

2. The true story of the heartthrob prince of Qatar and his time at USC. Los Angeles Times

3. A Black woman sat on the grass outside an L.A. church. The cold welcome she recorded speaks volumes. Los Angeles Times

4. Californians turn against each other amid second coronavirus shutdown. Los Angeles Times


5. These are the California businesses that must shut down under Newsom’s new coronavirus order. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Out of work: The coronavirus shutdown through the eyes of the recently unemployed. California Sunday Magazine

“We’re just overwhelmed.” The view from inside California hospitals as coronavirus surge hits. Los Angeles Times

Who’s afraid of Ziwe Fumudoh? A comedian has built a must-watch weekly Instagram Live show, asking often uncomfortable questions about race. New York Magazine


Poem of the week: “Summer (a love poem)” by Frank Lima. Poetry Foundation

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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)