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Business owners are defying orders to close, hospitals delay major surgeries and more in our biweekly roundup of North County news.
Before the holidays, I wrote about how some North County school leaders had tried to open or stay open for in-person learning amid pressure from parents, but faced backlash from teachers’ unions and because of crippling staff shortages. After a teacher’s union sued the San Dieguito Union School District in Encinitas, school leaders rescinded their plan to fully reopen this month.
In an email, Superintendent Robert Haley said district leaders are actively considering how they can move forward in the next quarter with increased general instruction based on guidance from the California Department of Public Health and San Diego County.
For now, the district is looking for ways to increase student access to campus in January to finish out the current quarter. Haley said the district is using indoor and outdoor spaces on campus while following the guidance to keep small groups safe and ensuring students who need social-emotional support get it.
There’s now a special request section on all school websites so parents and students can let the school know what their concerns are and what support they need, Haley said.
As closures at San Dieguito and other North County schools hold up, some parents in Carlsbad, Encinitas, San Marcos, Oceanside and Vista upset that their families still don’t have the choice to return to in-person learning have formed a group called Parent Association of North County San Diego. It’s intended to give parents a voice and a platform to advocate for what they believe are students’ best interests.
Ginny Merrifield, executive director of the group, told me that it formed as a result of concerns that the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated how politics and special interests, namely teachers’ unions, take precedence over the needs of children.
She said she believes most teachers are doing what they can to navigate the situation, but parents are impatient about schools reopening and are demanding transparency and accountability. Merrifield said parents are now opening their eyes to the power of local teachers’ unions, and she hasn’t seen enough leadership from them to work with districts to reopen schools.
“Now that a black box has opened up, parents are looking in and it’s kind of scary. Parents on one hand are feeling betrayed. I think there’s a loss of innocence in a way. Parents drop off their kids at kindergarten on day one until 12th grade and trust their schools. The pandemic has given us a loss of trust in the unions to not put students first,” she said.
Over the holidays, some restaurant and small business owners in Encinitas, Carlsbad and other North County cities protested state orders to close their businesses in response to dwindling ICU capacities by continuing to serve customers who opt to dine-in.
Those restaurant owners have managed to remain open, but city council members in Carlsbad and Encinitas have sought other routes to enforce shutdowns.
In Encinitas, Mayor Catherine Blakespear has threatened to rescind permits that allowed businesses to offer outdoor dining in city sidewalks, streets and parking spots if a restaurant is caught breaking the rules. Some Encinitas businesses, like the Encinitas Café, have started to comply with the city’s order, Fox 5 reported Wednesday.
In Carlsbad, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher called for a special meeting Tuesday and proposed the city put stricter restrictions on dining and other businesses in defiance of the state and local public health orders. The Carlsbad City Council voted 2-2 against the proposal to consider more stringent enforcement policies on businesses that defy coronavirus safety protocols. The Council did agree in a 4-1 vote to a comprehensive approach to educate and incentivize compliant businesses.
Even so, some restaurant owners are holding out and refusing to close their doors. In Carlsbad, Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant owner Belynn Gonzales told a Coast News reporter that she’ll stay open even if the Carlsbad City Council opts for more strict enforcement against businesses because she needs to provide for her employees.
Schumacher tweeted Wednesday her dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Council meeting.
“While I appreciate the comprehensive approach we will be pursuing, this does not solve … the short-term issue of those in willful violation of the public health order,” she wrote. “The outcome of tonight’s meeting sends the wrong message to those in willful violation of the public health order during a very critical moment in the COVID crisis — that we’re going to look the other way.”