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Monday, January 3, 2022


COVID-19 update: Here’s what OC schools are doing as students return from winter break
With most students set to return from winter break on Monday amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, OC schools are taking a number of steps to reduce on-campus transmission, from enforcing state mask mandates and quarantine protocols to tracking new cases and reporting close contacts. As we’ve shared previously, public schools are also expecting to receive from the state as many as two COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for every student. The idea is that families will be given the chance to pick up the kits and test their children at home.

Villa Park High School unveils new cutting-edge science center
Just before the start of winter break, administrators in the Orange Unified School District “cut the ribbon” and unwrapped a very large gift for local students — a new state-of-the-art science center at Villa Park High School. The 47,000-square-foot complex, which was unveiled to district officials and local dignitaries during a ceremony on Dec. 16, features four large chemistry labs, eight standard science labs, two standard classrooms, and a living skills suite for moderate-to-severe special education students.

County Supt. Al Mijares is among the OC Register’s 125 Most Influential People
Dr. Al Mijares, who leads OCDE as Orange County’s superintendent of schools, has made the OC Register’s roundup of the 125 top local influencers of 2021. He joins an eclectic list of distinguished notables that includes Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, Los Alamitos Unified Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver, County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, World War II veteran John Morton, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, Orange County Business Council CEO Lucy Dunn and California State Teachers of the Year Alondra Diaz and Sovey Long-Latteri.


Most Influential: For this Teacher of the Year, education is ‘personal’
Before she hit middle school, Alondra Diaz and her family had moved just under a dozen times, bouncing from place-to-place while her single mother worked jobs cleaning houses and as a seamstress. Then there was a time the family of five was homeless. They moved in with friends and coworkers of Diaz’s mom, sometimes residing in “crowded places,” Diaz recalls. Without a stable home, “we were just being taken in.” Despite the chaos, Diaz, now a teacher in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, went on to graduate college, earn a masters degree and launch a career in education with the dream of helping students and aspiring teachers recognize their unique potential.

Most Influential: This high schooler teaches kids about cyber threats
After spending part of her sophomore year using Zoom to do her University High coursework, Kayley Chan realized the importance of being secure online. She didn’t have a bad online experience herself, but she did take a cybersecurity course in which she learned all about the dangers posed malware and phishing, along with the importance of protecting her identity and securing passwords. So Chan, now a 16-year-old junior, decided that such information should be made available to elementary school students who didn’t yet have the same computer savvy.


L.A. County public and private school staff must wear high-grade masks; rules for athletes tighten
Employees at all Los Angeles County public and private schools will have to wear medical grade masks at work and students and staff must wear masks outdoors in crowded spaces under tightened rules issued in anticipation of classes beginning Monday amid a major surge of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Schools will have two weeks from the date of reopening after winter break to comply with the mask rules.


Ethnic Studies and Critical Race Theory: A Tumultuous Year for OC School Boards
Heated debates on how history should be taught and fear of critical race theory being embedded in curriculum have engulfed local school board meetings this year. The intense debates caused recall efforts against school board trustees, one district to shift to an online meeting for safety concerns and another district to consider banning the theory amid a national reckoning on how history should be taught. School boards this year have seen waves of students, parents and teachers rallying for local school districts to put a greater emphasis on teaching the historical plight of people of color and expand the scope of U.S. history through a course called ethnic studies.


How school counselors are helping children cope during COVID
The job of helping students recover fell largely to school counselors, a chronically understaffed profession tasked with tending to students’ social, mental and academic needs.

How some San Diego County educators are learning about equity
Schools’ efforts to combat racism and improve diversity and inclusion came under fire this year from parents and political groups who accused schools of propagating critical race theory, a university-level discipline that analyzes how the law has perpetuated institutional racial discrimination. One effort that has come under attack is the San Diego County Office of Education’s equity department, a four-year-old office that has worked with 95 schools and a dozen school districts, training them in equity efforts.


Bay Area schools hold firm with in-person plans as omicron surges and parents grow concerned
Bay Area students will flood back into schools starting Monday after spending two weeks with family and friends or even traveling to other states and countries just as the omicron wave is hitting California.


COVID: How are Bay Area schools confronting the omicron winter break surge?
Just days before K-12 students return to school from winter break, California’s education and state leaders are scrambling to adapt to the surge in COVID-19 cases that could dramatically impact classrooms in the new year.


Several options, big decisions loom for funding school construction
If the Assembly’s Democratic leaders have their way, next year’s state budget will dedicate $10 billion out of a projected $30 billion surplus to repair and expand K-12 school districts’ facilities. The money would put a big dent in building needs that have grown since voters defeated a $15 billion bond for K-12 schools and colleges in March 2020. These include an immediate need to modernize school buildings to accommodate transitional kindergarten and community schools. Yet the proposal could also derail a proposed $12 billion school building bond issue for next year’s ballot.

Covid cases increasing rapidly in California children, newspaper reports
Covid cases in California children are surging in pockets of the state, including San Francisco, Santa Clara County and San Diego, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting. “It’s absolutely blown up,” Dr. Laurel Schultz, a San Francisco pediatrician told the newspaper in a story published Thursday. About 20 children in her practice tested positive over the three-day Christmas weekend alone, she said. Most of the children are mildly ill, she said. Only 15% of Californian children between ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated at all, state data shows, the Chronicle reported.

Thurmond unveils mentoring program for students who need extra help
A new mentoring program in California will match adult volunteers with middle and high school students to provide basic tutoring, career coaching and guidance about life in general, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Wednesday. Organizations that provide mentoring to young people can join the initiative by emailing


‘Education turned a once homeless kid into me’: Meet LAUSD’s new superintendent
Alberto Carvalho, currently the schools chief of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth-largest K-12 system, soon will head to the West Coast to oversee the country’s second-largest school district.


Catholic Schools Sue LA Unified For Gutting Funding For Their Low-income Students
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has sued Los Angeles Unified, charging it has withheld millions of dollars in federal funding from dozens of Catholic schools, denying thousands of low-income students counseling and academic services they’re entitled to. The archdiocese said it filed the Dec. 16 lawsuit after repeatedly trying to get the district to reverse its decision to slice Title I funding for nearly all of its 100-plus schools over three years by more than 90%.


Students test for COVID at home before going back to school Monday
New Year’s Eve was a COVID test date for San Diego Unified students given home kits to use during holiday vacation. Every student was sent home with two self-swab tests, to be used Friday and then again Monday morning to confirm negative results before returning to in-person classes. 98,000 kits were distributed before the winter break. They are not mandatory but were highly recommended as it was expected many families traveled to see relatives and friends, increasing the chance of exposure to the coronavirus.


Parents’ poll: Less than two-thirds give schools top grades for handling students’ pandemic-related academic, social-emotional needs
Less than two-thirds of parents give schools an A or B for their handling of students’ academic and social-emotional needs during the pandemic, and almost 60 percent said they haven’t seen or heard anything about additional resources their schools can provide to address these issues, according to a new poll released last month.

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