TimesOC: Orange County’s first week back in class amid a pandemic brings mixed emotions

A crossing guard on Wednesday helps students return to in-person instruction at James H. Cox Elementary School.
A crossing guard on Wednesday helps students return to in-person instruction at James H. Cox Elementary School in Fountain Valley.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter. It’s Friday, Sept. 25.

My name is David Carrillo Peñaloza, the author of the TimesOC newsletter and an editor for Los Angeles Times Community News.

Reporter Matt Szabo posed the question right from the start: How soon is too soon when it comes to children returning to in-person instruction during the coronavirus pandemic?

The answer depends on who you ask in Orange County.

Szabo and reporters Stephanie Lai and Howard Blume wrote about those who are for students returning to class, those who are against it, and those who are simply scared of the whole idea. Well, the time came this week for the Tustin, Irvine and Los Alamitos unified school districts, and the Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach City and Cypress school districts to open their doors to children for the first time since March.

The county gave each of its schools the green light to return to campus this week. And the first week back brought mixed emotions.

Teachers and administrators said they felt excited and scared at the same time. Parents said they experienced similar feelings.

“My fears are the same as everyone else,” said Kim Rincon, who came to pick up her 9-year-old daughter, Jordan, and 4-year-old son, Dylan, at James H. Cox Elementary School in Fountain Valley on Wednesday. “I don’t want my [child] to get sick and then then bring it home and get the family sick.”

Jordan Rincon, 9, left, arrives with her father, Tom Rincon, center, and 4-year-old brother Dylan for school.
Tom Rincon, center, walks his daughter, Jordan, 9, left, and his son, Dylan, 4, to James H. Cox Elementary School in Fountain Valley on Wednesday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Some parents in nearby Huntington Beach are tired of waiting for schools to reopen. Unlike Fountain Valley, the Huntington Beach City School District plans to return for hybrid instruction no earlier than Oct. 26.

“The community is completely in the dark, and it’s reached a point where we are now uninformed and frustrated,” said April Helliwell, the PTSA president at Huntington Beach’s Ralph E. Hawes Elementary School, where her two sons attend. “We’re still sitting here with no information and we’re looking at Oct. 26. Everyone has questions about why is it still Oct. 26, and if it is Oct. 26, what is the reason? I think a lot of people are saying they think the reason is because the district didn’t do anything for six months … There has just been a lot of mistrust and a loss of faith in the district. People have just had enough.”

Next week the Newport-Mesa, Capistrano, Saddleback and Orange unified school districts and the Ocean View district plan to open.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times at latimes.com/subscribe.

Vanessa Bryant slams L.A. County sheriff, sues his department


Last week, Newport Beach resident Vanessa Bryant slammed Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva for challenging Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James to double a reward for information leading to the arrest of the assailant who shot two deputies in Compton on Sept. 12.

Now she’s suing Villanueva’s department.

Her lawsuit alleges that deputies took photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, 41, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in Calabasas on Jan. 26, and shared the photos. Reporter Richard Winton wrote that the suit also alleges that Villanueva personally assured Vanessa Bryant that deputies were securing the crash site to ensure her privacy.

All of those who died in the crash lived in Orange County: Newport Beach’s John, 56, Keri, 46, and Alyssa Altobelli, 13; Newport Beach’s Payton, 13, and Sarah Chester, 45; Huntington Beach’s Christina Mauser, 38; and Huntington Beach’s Ara Zobayan, 50.

More O.C. stories


— Demonstrators protested on Thursday at the site where Orange County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a Black man during an altercation the day before in San Clemente. Kurt Andras Reinhold was 42.

— Orange County is on the verge of moving to the third tier of “moderate” risk in California’s four-tiered COVID-19 monitoring system. The move would allow for more businesses to reopen indoor operations with modifications.

— A Newport Beach physician who is an Orange County sheriff’s reserve deputy has drawn criticism for waving a 9-millimeter handgun in a video interview and saying he’d rather people carry concealed weapons than wear face masks to guard against the coronavirus.

— The Orange County Fire Watch, a group of volunteers, is using a virtual program to help prevent wildfires because of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Costa Mesa has housed 151 homeless people in the past 18 months, and city officials say the homeless population will grow due to high unemployment rates caused by the pandemic.

— Saddleback College in Mission Viejo might replace its Gaucho mascot because some say it perpetuates a racist Latino stereotype.

Want to experience the newspaper with a digital subscription?

You can now view the actual Los Angeles Times Community News publications online with our e-newspapers. Here’s Friday’s edition of the Daily Pilot and Sunday’s edition of TimesOC. Hopefully this gives you the same feel as reading the newspaper in your hands.

Chris and Fiona Ivey have become a “Big Couple” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire nonprofit. The Newport Beach couple is co-mentoring a 7-year-old named Gabriel from Tustin.

Elmer Combs, Huntington Beach High School’s winningest boys’ basketball coach, has died. He was 91.

— You might not be able to ride an e-bike on the nearly 3-mile boardwalk that stretches along Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula.

— Looking for a short-term vacation rental in Huntington Beach? It might soon be possible to rent one legally.

Tommy Griffin is the second Corona del Mar High School senior to commit to the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football program this month.

Get in touch

Have any questions or suggestions for the TimesOC newsletter? Email me at david.carrillo@latimes.com.

If you want to sign up for the newsletter that is delivered to your inbox every Wednesday and Friday, visit latimes.com/oc-newsletter.

You can also follow me on Twitter @ByDCP and tweet me questions.

Enjoy your weekend and see you next week.

Orange County's Best: TimesOC's Readers' Choice 2020

Readers can vote on their best products and services in Orange County at latimes.com/timesoc/voting. Voting ends Wednesday.