Ebey Sorenson demands schools reopen during a protest in front of the San Diego Unified headquarters. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

San Diego Unified leaders have finally set a date for when students can start slowly returning to campus. On Oct. 13, some students may finally get to see their campuses after more than six months at home. 

“District leaders initially committed to bringing some of the district’s most vulnerable students back to campus by late September, but missed that date. Special education students, homeless students and those who have been unreachable by their teachers will be among the first set of students who can return,” writes Will Huntsberry.

Students who have experienced “learning loss” will also be eligible to return, said San Diego Unified board vice president Richard Barrera. 

What services look like for each student will likely vary. Some might only return for an assessment related to special education services. Others should return for as much instruction as they need to get back on track, said Barrera. 

“Many experts have cautioned that online learning could exacerbate the already wide achievement gap that permeates public education. San Diego Unified’s plan, which brings back the district’s most vulnerable students first, is designed to mitigate that effect,” writes Huntsberry.

Seditious Language Law, Out

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to repeal the city’s ordinance banning seditious language.

Last month, VOSD intern Kate Nucci revealed that SDPD officers had written more than 80 tickets over the last several years, despite the law’s clear unconstitutionality. What’s more, many of the people cited under the law said they weren’t engaging in seditious speech; they simply said something that offended the officer writing the ticket.

So, will officers who inappropriately wielded the law as punishment for speech be investigated or punished? Will people ticketed have their records cleared or their fines repaid? Those and other big questions remain, because the San Diego Police Department has so far refused to answer them.

City Councilwoman Vivian Moreno said in a statement that she, too, wants some answers. She said she’s requested that officers be retrained, has asked the city attorney to work with people who were previously ticketed and fined and has requested an update on those efforts.

Southern California Fire Officials Warn the Worst Is Ahead

San Diego should be ready to wrangle more wildfires as the region slips into traditional wildfire season come October. 

“(This year) has surpassed all records as the worst wildfire season in California history,” Tony Mecham, chief of the state fire service’s San Diego unit, told San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “We cannot let our guard down.”

Chances a catastrophic wildfire will spark in the coming months is expected to increase as the county enters the time of year when hot, dry winds that blow in from the desert – called Santa Ana winds – make friendlier conditions for fires. Much of Southern California is experiencing extremely low moisture levels since there’s been little rain so far this year. 

Wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, but due to human-accelerated climate change, the season is starting earlier and ending later each year, according to CAL FIRE. Mecham said San Diego should expect to be in a high fire threat state through December. 

Despite all the scary warnings the weather brings, and the fact that the firefighting force has been operating at “max capacity” since August, Mecham said San Diego is prepared. 

The state hired 1,000 extra firefighters this season and brought in 300 fire engines from out of state to help battle fires in Northern California. 

Supervisor Dianne Jacob asked whether fires north of the region were over-taxing the force to the detriment of Southern California.

“I feel very comfortable with where we’re at in San Diego,” Mecham said. 

Supervisors unanimously voted to accept an update on a 50-point 2019 plan for making the region more resilient to wildfires. That plan proved its worth during the Valley Fire as the county had pre-planned evacuation routes, cleared debris from those roadways and coordinated care of evacuees through a pre-established volunteer network, Mecham said. 

In Other News

  • San Diego County may be on the verge, yet again, of falling into the dreaded “purple tier,” which means the COVID-19 virus is too widespread and business conducted indoors must stop. But some elected county leaders are thumbing their nose at the state in a kind of nah-nah-nah-boo-boo we won’t comply sort of way. (Union-Tribune)
  • Despite the region perhaps drifting into that tier, all outdoor playgrounds that have been throttled by caution tape and hunter-orange plastic fencing will be cut free as of Tuesday, according to the California Department of Public Health. (KPBS)
  • San Diego regional public transit authorities are going to offer free rides to the ballot box on Nov. 3. That includes the bus, trolley, SPRINTER and COASTER, but wear your mask. (MTS)
  • A San Diego police officer was suspended without pay for an Instagram post that appeared to make light of an officer-involved shooting. (Union-Tribune)
  • Chicano Park has a new mural memorializing Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, who died in Border Patrol custody a decade ago, erected by muralist Victor Ochoa, who pioneered San Diego’s Chicano art movement. (Union Tribune)


Monday’s Environment Report newsletter misidentified the year of the target for which the county celebrated meeting by 98 percent. It was the 2020 target. 

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Will Huntsberry, and edited by Sara Libby.

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