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Morning Report: School’s Out for … ???

A classroom at San Diego High School. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

San Diego Unified sent shock waves across the state Monday when, along with Los Angeles Unified, officials announced students won’t be returning to physical campuses when school starts in August. 

That’s a major departure from last month, when officials said parents who wanted the option of sending children to schools would have it. It’s also a major departure from even late last week, when they said they’d convene a task force of experts to help determine when schools could safely reopen.

The reversal underscores the wildly different reopening plans that have emerged from district to district [1], VOSD’s Will Huntsberry reports.

But having no plan to return to physical school leaves some of the most vulnerable students – such as those who require special education services or students who are homeless – without a safety net,” Huntsberry reports.

The district’s announcement said officials still are aiming for a return to schools at an unknown point in the future. 

“Both districts will continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow,” the announcement said.

Meanwhile …

Schools won’t be reopening next month, but in the meantime, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered a new round of closures of indoor gatherings [2], including church services, salons, gyms and more. The closures impact 30 counties [3], including San Diego.

County Officials Backpedal on Testing Amid Shortages

San Diego County significantly ramped up its coronavirus testing capacity since the pandemic first hit, and had recently been making tests available to anyone who wanted one at multiple testing locations. 

County officials announced Monday that supply shortages have forced them to tighten testing rules [4]. Going forward, the county will focus on testing people with coronavirus symptoms and groups considered high risk [5] including people with chronic medical conditions, seniors, people living in group settings such as shelters or long-term care facilities and health care workers.

The county over the weekend reached a last-minute deal [6]with San Diego-based lab Helix to eventually provide 2,000 coronavirus tests daily with a 24-hour turnaround time as health officials grappled with whether they would need to shut down some test sites.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said the new contract and focus on particularly vulnerable populations are a direct result of supply chain issues.

“This is a nationwide issue and we feel that we have developed as best a solution as we can,” Wooten said.

Testing availability has varied wildly up and down the state [7].

Parks in Older Neighborhoods Could See a Funding Boost

Over the years, developers in San Diego have been required to fork over money to offset the impact of their development. But as MacKenzie Elmer wrote last week, this convoluted system of financing has meant newer neighborhoods have tended to get better parks. 

These fees are varied across the city and one source of inequity in land use planning. 

Since the original article, the city has released a study showing how it intends to create a single pot of money that can be distributed more fairly across neighborhoods. Elmer has more details in the Environment Report [8]

In short, developers will end up paying less in newer neighborhoods and more in older neighborhoods.

“The old plan pushed nicer amenities to the outskirts of the rapidly growing city while San Diego’s inner neighborhood parks deteriorated,” she writes. 

A Century Ago, Another Navy Fire Caused Devastation

The fire on the Navy ship Bonhomme Richard raged for a second day Monday [9], with temperatures reaching 1,000 degrees, the Union-Tribune reported.

The smoke was visible from Point Loma’s Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, where a 60-foot-tall granite obelisk commemorates the 66 sailors who died in a ship explosion 115 years ago this month, all victims of one of San Diego’s worst disasters, as VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga recounts in a history lookback [10].

“As the USS Bonhomme Richard continues to burn, the massive steam explosion aboard the USS Bennington and its aftermath are reminders of heroism (11 men received Congressional Medals of Honor), grit (overwhelmed local volunteers struggled to care for the wounded and the dead) and the early years of San Diego’s Navy ties,” Dotinga writes.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Scott Lewis.