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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 4/29/20, AM


Newsom: Schools May Open In July / Teacher Credentialing Adjustments / Trial Slowdown Concerns / Online Groceries For Low-Income Californians / Virtual Folsom Street Fair

Newsom: Schools May Open In July

Governor Gavin Newsom made an ear-catching statement about schools at his noon press conference, yesterday. After saying he’s concerned about kids missing out on their education while schools are closed, he said:

“And so we are considering the prospect of an even earlier school year, into the fall. As early as late July, early August ... As a parent, myself, and having talked to many parents and educators, even the kids, I think we might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit.”

That was the first we’d heard of the idea, and apparently it was the first State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond had heard of it, too. In a press release sent a few hours later, he said starting the next school year earlier could help solve equity and learning issues, but he also wants to address some questions first. He wrote:

“Can this be done in a way that protects the health and safety of our students, teachers, and school staff?”

Thurmond also noted that schools may need to open with smaller class sizes, which means hiring more teachers. Staffers will need personal protective equipment, and schools will need to be sanitized regularly. And it’s all going to take resources. So that’s a conversation that’s going to continue.

Teacher Credentialing Adjustments

The coronavirus pandemic won't prevent most teacher candidates from moving into California classrooms next school year, even if they have yet to complete all the normally required student teaching hours or certification tests. The state Commission on Teacher Credentialing voted last week to give university teacher-preparation programs wide latitude to decide when teacher candidates are prepared to move onto the classroom. 

The commission expects 26,000 people including teachers, principals and counselors to graduate from training programs this school year. Most are studying to get their teaching credential.

Commissioners voted to temporarily waive the 600 hours of student teaching normally required to earn a teaching credential. Student teaching is generally regarded as an essential part of a teacher's training, but it was largely discontinued after teacher preparation programs ended in-person instruction across the state due to the coronavirus. Centers that administer a range of tests that teachers need to take to get their credential also have been closed as a result of the pandemic, preventing teacher candidates from completing required testing.

It’s not clear, yet, what rubrics will be used to determine whether teacher trainees will be classroom ready.

Trial Slowdown Concerns

A defendant in a criminal trial has a constitutional right to a speedy trial, but three veteran Alameda County defense attorneys said this week that they're concerned that jury trials may be on hold for a long time in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. All jury trials in California superior courts were suspended on March 23rd because courts are not able to operate as usual while observing social-distancing and other health directives. The defense lawyers said they understand the concern about protecting public health, but warned if jury trials are delayed indefinitely, defendants' rights will be harmed and they will ask appellate courts to step in. One attorney said the prospect of long delays before trials resume is a problem because they're stuck waiting in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where 35 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. Another said their client feels “like they are being left to rot in jail and the system is not caring about them.” It will be nearly another month, at least, before jury trials in California superior courts resume.

Online Groceries For Low-Income Californians

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the federal food stamp program known as SNAP, has been developing a plan for years to let beneficiaries buy groceries online. When the coronavirus outbreak hit, that program was fast-tracked. Over half-a-dozen states, including California, are currently participating. Melissa Cannon with California Food Policy Advocates says that’s especially important for beneficiaries who are elderly and disabled.

“They’ve been asked to stay at home and are really trying to limit any kind of movement outside of the home, just to protect their own health because they’re particularly vulnerable. So this is a benefit that really helps out that population.”

Orders can be placed through Amazon and Walmart, and other retailers are expected to join. While the pilot is a good start, Cannon says there’s room for improvement. She’d like to see it expanded to other safety net programs like WIC, which helps women with young children access nutritional foods. 

Virtual Folsom Street Fair

San Francisco’s 37th annual Folsom Street Fair will move from its SoMa venues to A virtual space this September. The Bay Area's celebration of leather and kink follows in the footsteps of Pride, Burning Man, Hunky Jesus and other major events that have moved their 2020 in-person gatherings online. 

Folsom Street Events, the nonprofit that organizes the fair, announced that both Folsom Street and Up Your Alley will take place online during their regularly scheduled weekends. In a statement released on Facebook, organizers noted:

“We are excited to create virtual events to celebrate the historic fair weekends by staying socially connected while physically distant.”

Folsom Street Fair is the world’s largest leather event and one of the state’s largest outdoor fairs, with more than 250,000 attendees generating $180 million in tourism and roughly 300 thousand for local LGBTQ organizations.