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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 7/16/20, AM

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State School Districts Make Reopening Choices / Another Person Incarcerated At San Quentin Has Died / SF Board Of Supes Rules On Transportation Matters

State School Districts Make Reopening Choices

As school districts mull whether to bring students back to the classroom this fall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond says he supports some districts’ decision to continue with distance learning.

“If school had opened tomorrow, most of our districts would open in distance learning. And that is a decision that I think is a good decision if conditions don’t change.”

Thurmond says schools in areas with fewer coronavirus cases should be able to welcome back students safely — as long as they require face masks, hand washing and physical distancing.

Larger school districts throughout the state have decided not to chance it. That includes Los Angeles and San Diego, which are the state's two largest districts. Also, Oakland, Long Beach, Santa Ana, San Bernardino and others have chosen to start the new term with digital learning. That’s amid strong concerns from teachers unions and public health officials about the safety of staff on school campuses.

And now the San Francisco Unified School District, which holds KALW’s broadcast license, has decided to also begin the new school year through video classrooms.

After dozens of parents and educators expressed concerns at a board meeting, Tuesday, heard here on KALW, Superintendent Vincent Matthews sent out a letter yesterday morning and the district called families in the afternoon. In the letter, Matthews said:

 

“We hope to provide a gradual hybrid approach (a combination of in-person and distance learning) for some students when science and data suggest it is safe to do so.”

 

He says SFUSD will distribute tech to students who did not receive it last spring. His team is working on a detailed plan to improve distance learning and support families and students.

 

More details will be shared at the next SFUSD board meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, July 28th, at 3pm. It will also be heard here on KALW.

Another Person Incarcerated At San Quentin Has Died

Another California death row inmate has died from what appears to be complications of the coronavirus amid an outbreak sweeping through San Quentin State Prison, authorities said yesterday. 

 

Sixty-four year old Jeffrey J. Hawkins died Tuesday at a hospital outside of the prison, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The exact cause of his death remains under investigation.

Hawkins was the sixth death row prisoner and the 11th overall at San Quentin to die from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections.

There have been more than 6,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases among people incarcerated in the state prison system, including more than 1,000 in the past two weeks, and 37 people have died, according to state figures. Hundreds of employees also have tested positive for the infection. Dozens of inmates are hospitalized, some of them in intensive care.

California officials have said they plan to release more than 10,000 state prison inmates to try to contain the outbreak. Governor Gavin Newsom's plan calls for early release of low-level offenders with little time left on their sentences.

SF Board Of Supes Rules On Transportation Matters

 

Transportation authorities in the Bay Area have been facing low ridership and higher cleaning costs since the pandemic began. But this week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors chose not to introduce a tax measure that could help Caltrain stay afloat.

 

Since shelter in place began, Caltrain has reported a 97% decrease in ridership which has left a massive gap in their budget.

But on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors decided not to take up a ballot measure designed to keep Caltrain running. If approved, the measure would have introduced a one-eighth of a cent sales tax which could have generated upwardS of a 100 million dollars a year. The measure needed approval from four transit boards and Boards of Supervisors in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties to make it onto November ballots.

BART is also facing a similar COVID-induced cash crunch. The transportation system received about 250 million dollars from the first Federal CARES Act bailout and $125 million more has been allocated by the regional Metropolitan Transit Commission. But BART General Manager Bob Powers says more assistance is needed to make up for roughly 975 million dollars in lost revenue over the next three years.