Schools may return to 100% distance learning

Jul 9, 2020 | Cal Matters

Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, July 9.

Schools aren’t ready to reopen, teachers say

Image via iStock

To the millions of exhausted and frustrated parents out there, I apologize for the news I’m about to share: Some school districts may return to 100% distance learning this fall as California’s coronavirus surge pushes them to rethink their reopening plans.

Los Angeles Unified district superintendents were instructed Tuesday to prepare plans for 100% distance learning. San Francisco Unified will likely offer in-person learning only to the neediest students at first. One San Jose district also plans to start the year with most students in distance learning.

The California Teachers’ Association on Wednesday put its foot down on the issue in a sharply worded letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and top lawmakers.

  • The letter reads: “It is clear that communities and school districts have not come close to meeting the threshold for a safe return to in-person learning, even under a hybrid model.”

The news comes as President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to cut federal funding from schools that don’t physically reopen, adding another potential hurdle as they scramble to procure face masks and hand sanitizer while also developing costly sanitation and hybrid teaching plans. 

Newsom dismissed Trump’s “latest tweets,” adding that the state wants schools to provide as much in-person instruction as possible but “keeping our kids and teachers healthy” is “nonnegotiable.”

California’s coronavirus positivity rate rose to 7.1% over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations increased 44% and intensive-care admissions 34%. A record 26 counties are now on the state’s watch list, with Napa, San Benito and Yolo added Wednesday. 

For more information on how the state is faring at this critical juncture, check out this report from CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov and Ana Ibarra

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 289,468 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,562 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


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Other stories you should know

1. UC to sue Trump administration over international student policy

Peter, an international student from Southeast China, is an incoming third-year economics student at UC Santa Barbara. Photo by Max Abrams for CalMatters

The University of California will sue the Trump administration over new federal visa guidelines that would force international students to leave the U.S. if they’re only enrolled in online classes, the system’s governing board said Wednesday. The decision comes two days after Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced a reversal of its March policy allowing international students to take all online classes during the spring and summer as the coronavirus pandemic upended in-person classes, CalMatters’ Omar Rashad reports. Around 40,000 of California’s more than 160,000 international students attend UC.

  • UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Perez: “The University of California’s legacy and leadership would not be the same without the international students and faculty who have come to this institution. To UC’s international students, I say: ‘We support you and regret the additional chaos ICE’s action has caused.’”  

2. Senate and Assembly indefinitely delay return to Capitol

California Capitol building in Sacramento. Image via iStock

Neither the state Assembly or Senate will return next week to the Capitol from their summer recess after multiple staffers and lawmakers — including Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, a Marina Del Rey Democrat, and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Palmdale Republican — tested positive for COVID-19. The indefinite postponements, announced Wednesday by the Senate and Monday by the Assembly, mark the second time lawmakers have put things on hold due to the pandemic. It also marks further logistical challenges for lawmakers, who have seven weeks to process 700 bills before the legislative calendar ends Aug. 31. As the Capitol undergoes a deep cleaning, both houses are working out ways to continue conducting business remotely, though they’re split on whether the state Constitution allows remote voting.

3. California’s pension fund bets on risky new investment strategy

Image via iStock

Facing hundreds of billions of dollars in looming debt coupled with the pandemic’s economic devastation, the country’s largest pension fund is betting on a risky new investment strategy in the hope of making big bucks. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System last month approved a plan to act like a bank by lending money to private companies and placing more funds in complex financial arrangements, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. A lot’s at stake: If the investments don’t pan out, taxpayers and public workers will be saddled with more of the debt. Meanwhile, the agency is also pushing a bill that would limit access to information about its private loans.

  • Dan Bienvenue, CalPERS’ deputy chief investment officer: “We need every arrow in the quiver we can get, and private debt is one of the critical ones. There isn’t a no-risk choice.”
  • Margaret Brown, the only CalPERS board member to vote against the plan: “CalPERS has a habit of jumping in the market at the wrong time. It’s one thing if we do private debt and we take small steps, right? You don’t give your new puppy the big 32-ounce can of food. … He’ll choke on it.” 

4. Newsom launches website with free resources for small businesses

These are inauspicious times for California’s small businesses, but some help is on the way in the form of (yet another) state website.

Newsom unveiled Wednesday a new partnership between the state and some of the country’s largest corporations: a one-stop-shop website where businesses can learn about COVID-appropriate guidelines, source personal protective equipment and track down free resources from companies including Google, GoDaddy, Yelp, Slack, Salesforce, Uber, Square, UPS and Nextdoor.

The freebies include tech company give-aways like free website hosting, discounts on business products and access to possible loans. Check them out here.


CalMatters survey

Have you been tested for coronavirus? How difficult was it to access a test? How long did you have to wait for results? Fill out our COVID-19 testing questionnaire to share your experience with health reporter Ana Ibarra. All answers are confidential and identifying information will only be used with your permission.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: All but two of the 12 statewide ballot measures Californians will face this year rehash old political battles.

Latino small businesses didn’t equitably benefit from Paycheck Protection Program: Instead, celebrities, law firms and tech companies raked in valuable dollars, argues Christian Arana of the Latino Community Foundation.

A new generation of race consciousness: The outpouring of cross-racial support for Black Lives Matter demonstrations signals a new awakening in American society, writes María G. Rendón, a UC Irvine professor.


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Other things worth your time

Access to safe drinking water is a human right in California. But for years it hasn’t been consistent in this small Central Valley town. // Sacramento Bee

After marijuana was legalized, more Black people were arrested by LAPD. // Crosstown LA

Sacramento mayor wants to repeal city law that requires standing for the National Anthem. // Sacramento Bee

Churches push back on singing, mask rules. // Sacramento Bee

In LA case, U.S. Supreme Court rules anti-discrimination laws don’t apply to teachers who work at church-run schools. // Los Angeles Times

Stanford eliminates 11 varsity sports in face of mounting deficit. // Mercury News

Watchdog says California’s pollution regulators come up short. // Sacramento Bee

California condors spotted in Sequoia National Park for the first time in nearly half a century. // Valley Voice


See you tomorrow.

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