Good morning, California. It’s Monday, August 3.

Online learning plans up in air

A week before some California districts start school, many parents remain in the dark about what online learning will look like as teachers unions and districts negotiate instruction plans — in some cases behind closed doors.

Major points of contention include the length of teacher workdays and the amount of live instruction teachers should provide students — decisions the state left up to each district. In Los Angeles Unified, for example, the district wants teachers to work 7.5 hours a day, while the union has proposed a shorter workday for flexibility and planning purposes. And in Oakland Unified, labor leaders are calling for a maximum of two hours of daily live instruction, but district officials are pushing for more.

The result is likely to be a patchwork of uneven and inconsistent policies across the state that education experts say will leave the most vulnerable students behind.

San Diego Unified, for example, recently announced a tentative district-union agreement that calls for up to three hours of daily live instruction and full teacher workdays, while nearby Sweetwater Union High School district will offer between 1.5 and 2.25 hours of daily live instruction.

But some experts caution that too much live instruction will lead to “Zoom gloom,” hampering students’ ability to retain information.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, California had 509,162 confirmed coronavirus cases and 9,356 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters is tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


Other stories you should know

1. July was California’s worst coronavirus month

Image via iStock

July was not a good coronavirus month for California. The state’s daily average of new cases more than doubled from 4,006 in June to 8,669 in July, while the daily average of deaths shot up from 64 to 101 during the same period. On Friday, a Fresno County child under age 17 became the first California youth to die from COVID-related complications — the same day the state became the first in the nation to surpass 500,000 confirmed cases. However, hospitalizations have been declining following a July 21 high, though they remain at near-record levels, CalMatters’ hospital tracker shows.

2. Counties fear released inmates will spread virus

The Upper Yard in San Quentin State Prison in 2019. Photo by Penni Gladstone for CalMatters

With California’s prison population dropping by nearly 15,000 since March — bringing it below 100,000 for the first time in 30 years — and another 8,000 inmates slated for release by the end of the month, counties are increasingly concerned that released prisoners will exacerbate coronavirus spread in their communities, the Los Angeles Times reports. County officials say many inmates were released on short notice and weren’t connected to quarantine housing or private transportation. It was also unclear how many had the virus due to uneven testing protocols. The state has freed 246 inmates with “active” COVID-19 cases, but keeping them quarantined in hotel rooms has been a challenge.

  • Michael Kirkpatrick, 62, recently released from San Quentin: “The only time you were supposed to come out is when they knocked on your door and brought you food. But you got guys who are just getting out of prison and want their freedom. The person at the front desk is not going to tell you not to go anywhere.”

3. California unveils new K-12 ethnic-studies curriculum

Image via iStock

California on Friday released an updated ethnic-studies curriculum for K-12 schools, nearly a year after its initial draft was excoriated for being too politically correct, anti-Semitic and full of academic jargon. The new version encourages discussion of all identities and backgrounds while focusing on the four groups central to ethnic studies — African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Chicanos, and Native American and Indigenous peoples, EdSource reports. It’s intended as a guide for the California schools already teaching the material, though lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would make ethnic studies a graduation requirement. (Cal State students are now required to take either an ethnic studies or social justice class in order to graduate following a trustee vote last month.)

The state Board of Education will vote on the new curriculum in March 2021 following periods for review and public comment.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s economy went from boom to bust in just a few weeks, and no one can predict when the worst will be over.

Include all immigrants: The next federal relief package should address the health and nutritional needs of all Californians, argue Betzabel Estudillo and Gabrielle Tilley of California Food Policy Advocates.

Don’t cut core UC courses: The social sciences on our campuses – and quite likely throughout the University of California – stand at the edge of a fiscal precipice, write Charles Hale, Katharyne Mitchell and Bill Maurer, deans of social science at UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Irvine, respectively.

Feds aren’t stepping up: California must create its own consumer protection agency amid the pandemic, argues Claudia Deeg of the California Public Interest Research Group.


Other things worth your time

A day amid the pandemic across Los Angeles shows wrenching inequities. // Los Angeles Times

‘We’re missing huge amounts of data’: Why we still can’t track the spread of COVID-19 across the Bay Area. // San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles weighs giving people with COVID-19 cash to stay home. // Sacramento Bee

California’s effort to buy thousands of COVID-19 ventilators falls behind schedule. // Sacramento Bee

In California’s ‘Bible belt,’ churches find ways around lockdown orders. // Los Angeles Times

What’s in a name? Everything, unhappy California initiative backers say as they sue state over ballot titles. // San Francisco Chronicle

How a sheriff’s department in a remote California county obtained a military-grade vehicle. // The Guardian

Donald Trump and California: A battle of wildfires and wills. // AlJazeera

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...