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Students march outside San Diego Unified School District’s headquarters to demand that police officers be removed from local schools. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
Students march outside San Diego Unified School District’s headquarters to demand that police officers be removed from local schools. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

As miserable as the last four months have been in many ways, and as desperately as I hope we can get a handle on the coronavirus soon, it’s been pretty widely acknowledged that there have been some bright spots.

Restaurants have gotten creative with their takeout offerings (the family meals from Lola 55 and Juniper & Ivy are incredible, you guys). Workplaces have been forced to admit that working from home, and under flexible arrangements, is not just possible but perhaps preferable. We can stream new movies from our couch.

Those aren’t just little changes that bring joy to people’s lives, they represent real adaptability and a willingness to pivot on the part of many companies.

And those silver linings are what I’m clinging to as we all digest the news this week that most schools across California won’t be opening in person.

Regardless of whether you think the decision is the right call, it represents an incredible undertaking for families, schools and the entire system, which must scramble to assemble an entirely new set of infrastructure and customs to educate kids.

It is a massive, unimaginable challenge.

But, if we decide to let it, it could also be an opportunity.

For years, we’ve covered a few gnarly, systemic issues in schools that continue to fester with no end in sight. This week, for example, we asked the candidates for San Diego Unified school board how they’d tackle the district’s wildly disproportionate suspension rates. Two of those candidates are incumbents who’ve had years to address the problem, but have not. Earlier this month, we chronicled how officials at a single school in Poway Unified routinely protected predatory educators, and created an atmosphere in which female students didn’t even bother reporting harassment, assuming they’d never be believed. Also this month, hundreds of students marched at the district headquarters, urging officials to remove police from schools. Some districts have already moved to do this. But San Diego Unified, whose officers are far more likely to arrest Black students than White ones, has so far done nothing on this front.

Over and over again, this pandemic has shown us that both businesses and government agencies are capable of making big, rapid changes – even changes they’d previously insisted weren’t prudent or possible.

San Diego Unified and other districts should seize this weird, messy, unprecedented moment and determine what changes it’s truly capable of – not just in terms of facilitating online learning but when it comes to deep, systemic issues that will be waiting to greet students whenever they return to schools – and decide to finally make them happen.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Reporting from VOSD this week drove home the extent to which system racism impacts Black San Diegans in so many aspects of public life.

Data shows citations and arrests related to coronavirus enforcement disproportionately impacted Black residents. Many of those citations were for encroachment, an enforcement tool used primarily against the homeless. The homeless population here too includes far more Black residents than their share of the city population.  We talked about how these stories intersect on this week’s podcast.

San Diego Unified’s decision this week to begin the school year in an online-only format could fuel further disparities as well-connected families create outside support systems.

Our own newsroom, of course, isn’t immune to dealing with these issues. This week, we laid out where we’re at on our diversity and inclusion efforts.

***

MacKenzie Elmer laid out why the environmental impacts of this week’s massive Navy ship fire won’t be clear right away. Meanwhile, a state audit found that San Diego’s Air Pollution Control District isn’t charging polluters enough to cover the cost of the program that regulates them.

***

This totally bananas story about a fake battery accusation and an illegal robocall spreading misinformation about it just keeps getting weirder.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.” – San Diegans feel this deep in their bones.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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