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Kindergarten Amid A Pandemic (San Diego News Matters)

Parents and teachers are staring down the challenge of introducing kids to school for the very first time without actually having them in a physical classroom. Some will have it a lot easier than others. Also, Customs and Border Protection said its new procedures are to discourage non-essential travel, to stop the spread of COVID-19. Over the weekend, wait times of up to seven hours were reported at the San Ysidro and Otay ports of entry. Plus, Margaret Hunter, who pleaded guilty along with her husband — former Rep. Duncan Hunter — to illegally spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal purposes, was sentenced Monday to eight months of home confinement, slated to begin immediately, and three years probation.

Governor Gavin Newsom offered some words of optimism at his press conference [MONDAY], as hundreds of fires continue to rip across California. So far over a million acres have burned. Red Flag warnings in parts of the state were called off as winds calmed and the immediate threat of lightning subsided. Crews have made substantial progress in some areas, including wildfires in Monterey, Los Angeles and Sierra counties.
“It’s a testament to the incredible firefighters that are out there on the front lines. The hand crews and all the individuals that are responsible for this effort of suppression. And the progress is demonstrable.”
But he put those victories into perspective. Two of the largest fires in California history continue to spread in Northern California. That’s referring to the S-C-U Fire complex near Santa Clara and Alameda which is 15 per cent containment and has burned 360-thousand acres, as of late last night. Also, the LNU fire complex in Napa and Sonoma counties has burned more than 351-thousand acres, it’s at 25 per cent containment. But, there’s also the C-Z-U complex near Santa Cruz is 13 per cent contained with nearly 78-thousand acres burned.m
To keep up with the latest on the fires across northern and southern California, go to KPBS dot org, and fire dot CA dot gov.

The wait continues for when San Diego County businesses can operate indoors. The governor says guidance for businesses is coming this week.

Even though the county has met the state’s metrics to reopen — San Diego is still reporting more community outbreaks each week than the county’s goal. An outbreak is three or more people sickened who visited a common location but live in different households. San Diego County Public Health Office Wilma Wooten acknowledged on Monday that the county could be more strict than guidance the state may release, but she didn’t commit to that.

“We know that the state wants to look at a tierd approach but we do not have those clear guidelines so I don’t want to speculate here.”

Meanwhile the county is still on track for schools to get the reopening OK by September first, though districts have the final say.

The Republican National Convention officially began (Monday). After a number of false starts and pandemic resets, convention events will now take place mainly in Washington DC and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ron Nehring is a former chair of the San Diego county and the state Republican party. He told KPBS the theme of Trump’s reelection campaign was blown up by the Covid pandemic and the recession that followed.

“And so all the themes they had planned to run on and even the team that had been brought on to manage that campaign, Brad Parascal, all of that had to be changed up. Whereas the democrats, they’ve had to change but they didn’t have to change as much because they started as a challenger, they’re still the challenger and it’s still a referendum on the incumbent.”

KPBS will air live coverage of the Republican National Convention KPBS radio and KPBS television all starting at 6pm.

I’m Anica Colbert. It’s Tuesday, August 25th. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined forces Monday. They’re supporting 5-point-4 million dollars in funding to help the county’s homeless with mental health care services.

Those services would be offered at two hotels the housing commission is trying to buy and convert into housing.

Faulconer sees the new housing and healthcare services as a permanent solution to homelessness in San Diego.

“San Diego can and will exit this pandemic with fewer individuals on the street than before. And with the county’s vote tomorrow, they can have the support that will keep them housed permanently.”

The Board of Supervisors will meet today (Tuesday) to discuss and approve the county’s 6.4-billion dollar budget, including the proposed on-site health care services.

US Agents at the US/Mexico border are doing things differently, in an effort to discourage non essential crossings. KPBS reporter Tania Thorne says the new procedures are now costing travelers hours in wait times.

Over the weekend, travelers reported waiting up to 7 hours while trying to cross into the U.S. through the San Ysidro and Otay ports of entry.
The long wait times come after Customs and Border Protection started new action to discourage non essential travel to and from Mexico. They say it’s to limit the spread of COVID-19.
A CBP spokesperson said non essential travelers can expect longer wait times and secondary inspections.
Essential workers like Andres Moreno who cross regularly are feeling the pain.
“I get more tired of waiting in line than what I actually work. I’ve done about the same, 5 hours in line and 5 hours at work.”
If not extended, border restrictions are expected to last until September 21st. Tania Thorne, KPBS news.

That was KPBS’ Tania Thorne

No prison time for Margaret Hunter.. Monday morning the wife of former Congressman Duncan hunter was sentenced to 8 months home confinement and three years probation for her role in misusing more than 250-thousand dollars in campaign funds.

KPBS’ Matt Hoffman reports.

Last year Margaret Hunter struck a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty, and provided key information that ultimately lead to her husband’s guilty plea–
8:00 Mark Conover, assistant U.S. attorney
No doubt mrs. hunter committed very serious crimes but Mr/s Hunters cooperation was extraordinary
Mark Conover with the U-S attorney’s office says Mrs. Hunter stole the campaign funds with the encouragement of the former congressman.. And turning against him wasn’t easy putting her against the entire Hunter family.. And Ultimately fracturing her marriage with Duncan. All of that factored into the sentencing recommendation.. But prosecutors simply say Margaret took responsibility for her actions.. While the former Congressman maintained he was a political target.
The earliest opportunity that we gave mrs hunter to plead guilty she accepted that offer and cooperated from that point on
For his part, Duncan Hunter received 11 months in prison, but doesn’t have to surrender until January. Matt Hoffman, KPBS News.

Kindergarten is supposed to be a magical time for children — when they get a backpack, a lunchbox and go off to school like big kids. But now parents and teachers across the region are staring down the challenge of introducing kids to school without actually having them in a physical classroom. And KPBS reporter Claire Trageser tells us, that is creating inequity from the very start of kids’ school careers.

Maya Ramos and Kaya Cagasan spent a recent morning relaxing in the hot tub, and then climbing out to eat fruit and cookies outside.
This is where the new kindergarteners at Benchley/Weinberger Elementary in the San Carlos neighborhood will have their virtual kindergarten classes. Their moms, Nicole Ramos and Shaffana Cagasan, formed a learning pod together and hired a private tutor to help them follow their online lessons.
Shaffana Cagasan says in some ways this will be better than if the kids were in normal kindergarten.
“Maybe this is a way for us to be creative and reimagine the whole education process. So I’m excited about that. I feel like that’s a rebirth of something. So maybe in all of this there’s something good that’s coming out of it.”
A few miles away, in North Park, Dannia Hernandez is facing a far different reality.
“The unknown, the unknown, to not know what’s going to happen.”
She works full time and her daughter Jasmine will start kindergarten at Jefferson Elementary in North Park. Hernandez’s plan is for her mother to stay with Jasmine and help her do her online lessons, but she’s worried that won’t work out well.
“My mom will be there but i t’s not the same as a professional who can be there and give her the 101… And even if the computer just goes into sleep mode, she won’t know what to do. It’s going to cause frustration and stress.”
Ramos, whose kids are going to be in the pod with the private tutor, says she’s keenly aware of the inequity the pandemic is creating. So I think the big challenge that we have is what role do we play in sort of helping solve inequities as people who have resources?
Regardless of their status, kindergarteners and their families will arguably be impacted more than any other grade by online learning this fall. They have little to no experience in a regular school environment, let alone in a virtual space with the distractions of home. It won’t be easy for the teachers either.
Jana Wilson, who has taught kindergarten for most of her 21-year-career in La Mesa, is planning a daily schedule with a live video call from 8 to 9 a.m. where she’ll go over the calendar, read a story and talk about the letter of the day.
“At the beginning, it’s probably very ambitious of me to be thinking we’re going to be online for an hour, but if we break it up with fun songs and activities, get up and stretch.”
Her plan is to limit the length of the online sessions and mix-in old-school activities like craft projects that the kids will do offline. She’ll also pre-record math and other important lessons.
“I might be really optimistic and a little naive thinking about how challenging this will be, but that’s part of kindergarten, you never know what comes in through the door, never know kids will be. Kindergarten teachers are a special breed that always anticipate the crazy and the unknown.”
Still, Wilson acknowledges that parents or another adult are going to need to be with the kindergarteners to help them with the crafts and activities, at least for the first six weeks.
But, of course, that’s not an option for many families.
“One kid didn’t have a parent in the room, and he kept going, ‘here’s my dinosaur, I want to tell you about my sister,’ and the teacher didn’t know how to mute him…. My daughter had meltdowns.”
Homayra Yusufi’s daughter Fatima already started virtual kindergarten in San Marcos.
“We can address challenges, but it’s been really bad.”
Now she’s ready to pull her daughter out of school entirely.
“I’m concerned this will give her anxiety about school. This is supposed to be her whole introduction to school in kindergarten, and I don’t want her to have long term anxiety about school.”
She is toying with the idea of switching to homeschooling, or having her daughter skip kindergarten completely.
Other parents are also opting out of public school.
Syed and Sanaa Abedin’s son Haris was finishing preschool at Magic Hours Preschool in Mira Mesa, and had planned to send him to public school kindergarten this fall. Now, Magic Hours announced it was offering kindergarten.
“It was a no brainer for us. They have very small classes, we’ve been sending our son to preschool there for three years now, we trust them, know they maintain good care and cleanliness, so we felt comfortable.”
Of course, the Abedins were looking forward to eliminating the cost of preschool this year—$310 a week at Magic Hours–but decided it was worth it to pay for another year.
“A big part of school is learning interaction with friends, to understand how to deal with different issues, that was a huge learning process to go through. If they’re lacking social interaction, they will miss out on a huge part of kindergarten, and they will be at a disadvantage.”
But there could be unintended consequences. If a large number of parents decide not to enroll their kindergarteners in public schools, it would cause an enrollment dip and a corresponding drop in state funding to districts. Maureen Magee, a San Diego Unified spokeswoman, said the district won’t have final enrollment numbers until October.

That was KPBS’ Claire Traegeser

Coming up on San Diego News Matters…

San Diego State University fall semester begins amidst a pandemic. We have that story next, just after this break.

The fall semester started yesterday at San Diego State University. While most classes will be held online due to the coronavirus pandemic, about 26-hundred students moved into campus housing. As universities across the country are learning, careless young people socializing on campus is an ideal environment for a highly contagious virus to spread. And Warnings often go unheeded.

San Diego Union Tribune Reporter Gary Robbins sat down with KPBS Midday Host Mark Sauer to assess the SDSU situation. Here’s that interview….

Well, a, you were on campus over the weekend, observing students. What did you see were most following social distancing rules and wearing masks?

Speaker 2: 00:42 The only place that I saw people really following the rules was on college Avenue, Montezuma where like broken yolk and trader Joe’s was once we got beyond that area, I saw very, very little of it. We were there between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Even over on the South side of PREPA student union on that green a green area. There are a lot of kids sitting in clusters, but virtually none were wearing masks and people were sitting, uh, close. You know, so there wasn’t a lot of social distancing going on going on on a hot summer night.

Speaker 1: 01:11 And the university has been clear in instructions to students who are coming on to campus now, right? Uh, what, what the rules should be and what you have to do to stay safe. They have been

Speaker 2: 01:20 Hyper clear about it. Um, you know, uh, I spoke on Friday to Libby Skiles who is a director of the student health center and to care about or who is, um, she oversees residential education for their, for the dorms. And they kind of went back and explained all of the things that the university had done and the ways they had communicated, you know, from Eve, uh, through email and videos and how they reached out to parents. So they did a great deal, but I kind of walked away from the evening thinking a couple of things. I wondered how effective the messaging was. You know, the question becomes, how do you connect with an 18 year old who probably has never been away from home? Uh, who’s been cooped up during the pandemic and suddenly aren’t there on this wonders campus and their life is kind of beginning.

Speaker 2: 02:05 How do you really get their attention? And this will sound maybe peculiar, but I think the answer was on television this morning. I saw this ad that everybody sees from Geico commercial, where a guy standing in front of a mirror, brushing his teeth and someone named DJ Khalid. Who’s very popular among kids right now comes in and tells him how to brush his teeth more effectively. And it’s sweet. And it’s funny and it’s meant to connect with people on, you know, in their own place. And I wondered why San Diego state and a lot of other universities aren’t doing that. They’re sending out messages, but are they speaking in the language of 18 and 19 year olds?

Speaker 1: 02:41 One basic question, most classes are online. Why did SDSU allow some students to move into campus housing anyway?

Speaker 2: 02:47 Well, there are some, there were some reasons. Um, there is good evidence over time that shows that if students are on a campus around people like themselves, particularly in their freshmen and sophomore years, it helps, um, stay in college longer. So, you know, we all remember what it’s like, uh, at the beginning of college can be very difficult. So they’re, you know, they do it because it creates a sense of stability and parent pattern and routine for students. That’s very helpful. Um, and a lot of people, you know, dorms have always been there. And many of these, there are 2,600 students in the dorms. 2000 are freshmen. Many of them are from outside of San Diego. So it’s not like they could commute here to take classes. They need a place to live and the dorm rooms are a good place to do that.

Speaker 1: 03:31 Yeah. And that, as your story noted today, that represents about a third of the students normally housed on campus. Now we’ve seen cobot 19 outbreaks at college campuses around the country, the student newspaper, Notre Dame published a dramatic editorial about not wanting to write a bituaries how’s the return to campus playing out nationally in general.

Speaker 2: 03:51 So what’s happening here is what’s happening everywhere. This is actually just the latest example of it. I saw the stories from the university of North Carolina and something provocative that the student newspaper did there to grab people’s attention after that happened. Um, I went to Northeastern in Boston. They’re really worried. They’ve been kind of sending, sending out these threatening emails to students who said on social media that they intended to party. Notre Dame had the same problem, North Carolina state. These are good schools, Mark, and these are good kids. Um, but we’re dealing with human nature. I mean, all the people listening to your broadcast, many of them went to college. Think back for a moment what that first semester was like and how it would have been difficult to catch your attention when a public service announcement about health.

Speaker 1: 04:35 What did the students have to say? Uh, the ones that you were able to talk to?

Speaker 2: 04:38 I had a conversation with Devin Watley. Oh, I think it was, yeah, it was yesterday and he’s on the student newspaper. He was a senior, he’s very engaged in the community there. And he came back to this whole thing saying, you know, it’s going to take one thing to shut the university down.

Speaker 1: 04:53 Right. And one expert you’re quoted in your story said, well, most students follow the rules in the classroom. Not necessarily after 5:00 PM and residence halls and fraternities, a university prepared to take disciplinary action against students. You mentioned that was the case in a university back here.

Speaker 2: 05:10 Yeah. You know, I talked to Kara Bower about that and she was very clear that the university would take disciplinary action if people did not a Bay, the rules in the dormitories. And she, you know, again, they were, they more preferred the soft stick, but the university made a point of saying that. And they also said that all students who went into student housing signed in a denim or COVID-19 in which they agreed to follow the policies of the university on this. So, you know, you’re signing a document committing to it. But then in the end though, Mark, it comes down to Tuesday nights in September when there’s an RA trying to take care of this or that. And how do you keep, watch over a dorm? You know, that has a lot of students in it. Can you police or parent what’s actually going on in the dormitories? So while everybody to everything, how do you police it?

Speaker 1: 06:00 It’s a big problem. Now what’s the plan at UC San Diego, university of San Diego, other local colleges.

Speaker 2: 06:06 So over the past week or so, UC San Diego has done a really poor job of communicating, not only with the campus, but with the public on this issue. They have things online and that’s as good as, as far as it goes. But you know, I’ve been trying to get some of their health officials to sit down and say, okay, you know, everybody everybody’s read what happened at UNC and Notre Dame and whatnot, are you adjusting what you’re doing and learning from what you’re doing and how will you apply it? So for example, how will you enforce the wearing of mask in dormitories, even if you’re going in to the bathroom indoors, how do you enforce that? And they haven’t been willing to answer these basic public questions. It’s kind of ironic because they’re asking the public for money to fight COVID-19 and to our support a public health school, but they won’t answer basic basic health questions.

Speaker 1: 06:50 I’ve been speaking with reporter Gary Robbins of the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks Gary. Thank you, Mark.

….That was Gary Robbins, reporter for the San Diego union tribune, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Mark Sauer.

San Diego News Matters is a daily morning news podcast powered by all of the reporters, editors and producers in the KPBS Newsroom.

Tune in to KPBS Midday Edition at noon on KPBS radio or KPBS Evening Edition at 5:30pm on KPBS television to keep up with the news throughout your day.

You can also find us on Twitter @ Kpbs news, or to find our podcast producer, Kinsee Morlan, she’s @ Kinsee. I’m @AnicaColbert. And as always you can find more KPBS podcasts, like Only Here or Cinema Junkie, on our website at KPBS dot org slash podcasts, or wherever it is you get your podcasts.

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