North County Report: Schools Are Reopening for Students Most in Need
An Oceanside water project gets a federal boost, California wants Encinitas to revise its affordable housing plan and more in our biweekly roundup of North County news.
School reopening news comes at you fast. Such is life in a global pandemic.
Students with special needs and some elementary students are returning to classrooms as early as this month across North County. A Union-Tribune reporter broke down those plans in Vista, Poway, Oceanside and Escondido, where officials intend to open campuses to small groups of English-learners and other students who are most in need.
Many of those districts have plans to open for in-person learning next month with hybrid learning programs. They include Vista Unified, which plans to resume classes in a hybrid-learning model on Oct. 20. In Poway Unified, the first set of elementary campuses will open for general education on Oct. 1 and the next set on Oct. 12, with students split in groups between the morning and afternoon, a spokeswoman for Poway Unified told the Union-Tribune. Elementary school students in Oceanside will return to campus for hybrid learning on Oct. 19 and Escondido Union School District will reopen its hybrid preschool programs on Sept. 28, and all students will be on a hybrid learning model by the end of October, according to the report.
Many students at Del Mar Elementary School and the Rancho Santa Fe Elementary already returned to campus, according to the Union-Tribune and NBC San Diego, after receiving waivers from the county to reopen.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, San Marcos Unified School District Superintendent Carmen Garcia announced her resignation. Assistant Superintendent Tiffany Campbell will step in as the acting superintendent, the Coast News reported.
In a letter to the San Marcos school district community, Garcia wrote: “After a great deal of reflection and due to personal reasons, I’d like to inform you that I will be leaving the district. I thank the Board for the amicable separation and for the opportunity to work together these past two years with phenomenal students, teachers, parents, staff, administrators, and the community at large.”
It’s still unclear exactly why Garcia resigned, but numerous parents and community members had recently expressed concern during school board meetings with the district’s handling of its reopening plans.
All school reopening plans could depend on whether San Diego County ends up back on the state monitoring watch list. San Diego County’s coronavirus case rate is now surging, thanks in part to rising cases at San Diego State University. The region will fall to the worst tier of the state’s reopening system if the high rate continues for another week.
Oceanside’s Pure Water Project Gets Federal Boost
Oceanside’s dream of being first in the region to turn sewage into drinking water got a huge leg up from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA awarded the Pure Water Oceanside a $69 million loan from the agency to help meet its 2022 deadline. Officials are gathering Thursday at San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility for the loan announcement.
The project will be the first in the county to recycle wastewater, providing more than 32 percent of the city’s needs, according to a Wednesday press release.
The federal agency invited Oceanside to apply for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program in 2018 and subsequently selected it among 38 other projects. The program, enacted by Congress in 2014, is intended to help accelerate water infrastructure upgrades at low interest rates, which tend to be expensive and not necessarily lucrative for a city.
The EPA’s loan will cover almost half the project costs, said Lindsay Leahy, Oceanside’s principal water engineer. Interest on the loan accumulates at only 1.2 percent a year and the city won’t have to pay the loan back until most of the project is constructed, near the end of 2024.
“The city of Oceanside’s work with the U.S. EPA has been critical to advance the landmark Pure Water Oceanside project toward completion,” Leahy said. “We are appreciative of the federal, state and local partnerships that have been established to support the city’s financing plan to ensure rate stability into the future for Oceanside’s customers.”
— MacKenzie Elmer
What We’re Working On
- Oceanside was set to consider only internal candidates to replace its outgoing police chief, without holding community forums. That plan is now changing, but residents still worry their concerns aren’t being meaningfully addressed. I talked to clergy and community leaders in Oceanside about their concerns for a transparent top cop hiring process.
- In an explosive declaration, attorneys for a woman suing San Diego County over her husband’s suicide in the Vista Detention Facility say county lawyers knowingly failed to disclose the name of a witness because her testimony would undercut their defense, VOSD contributor Kelly Davis reports.
In Other News
- California wants Encinitas to revise its affordable housing plan. The California Department of Housing and Community Development wants Encinitas to modify the process by which future upzoning would occur so it doesn’t again fail to meet housing element deadlines. (Coast News)
- Interfaith Community Services, a nonprofit in Escondido, plans to buy the America’s Best Value Inn & Suites located near its headquarters and convert it a recuperative care center and temporary housing to help people in North County overcome homelessness. (Union-Tribune)
- The North River Farms project developer contributed more than $200,000 in August to the campaign to get Oceanside voters to approve the 585-home development in South Morro Hills. (Union-Tribune)
- The Oceanside Police Department is spending nearly $2 million on 225 police body cameras for five years. Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy said at a City Council meeting that body cameras have become an essential part of law enforcement. (Union-Tribune)
- And finally, land once zoned for a middle school in Black Mountain Ranch may end up being a Costco store and shopping mall on property owned by the Poway Unified School District. (CBS 8)
Update: This post has been updated to reflect the correct amount of the EPA loan for the Oceanside plant; an earlier version quoted an EPA official who misstated the amount of the loan.