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San Diego High School / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

There’s one big factor that goes a long way toward determining whether a student in San Diego County schools is likely to be back learning in a classroom, or at home doing distance learning. It’s not race, or wealth. It’s age.

Will Huntsberry analyzed countywide data from the San Diego County Office of Education and found that high schoolers are far more likely to be staying in distance learning than students in elementary or middle school: “Only 32 percent of elementary students remain in full-time distance learning. In middle school, 41 percent are learning remotely. And in high school, 53 percent of students have decided to stay home.

In San Diego Unified, the high school data is even more stark. A full 60 percent of high schoolers remain in full-time distance learning.”

There are several explanations for why high-schoolers are opting out of in-person learning: Some might still be taking care of younger siblings at home; some might have decided it wasn’t worth it to return to campus for just a couple months. But some might not have been served well by their pre-pandemic classrooms.

San Diego Unified school board president Richard Barrera told Huntsberry he’s confident most students will return full time in the fall, but acknowledged the district can improve students’ learning experiences to make coming back more attractive: “Barrera mentioned curriculum and discipline as two things that should be improved. He also pointed to two changes in the works at San Diego Unified. High schools across the district recently adopted later start times. And next year they’ll start using what’s called a four-by-four schedule, which means students only take four – instead of six or seven – classes per day,” Huntsberry reports.

Speaking of High Schools, There’s Now a Row Over Lincoln

San Diego Unified School District escalated its war of words with City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe on Thursday. 

School Board Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne issued an open letter in response to Montgomery-Steppe’s own open letter from a few weeks ago, comparing the councilwoman’s letter to the racist insult Cathedral Catholic football players notoriously leveled against Lincoln High players. 

“Your attack on our students and Lincoln High School is beneath the dignity of your office. You owe those students and our community an apology,” Whitehurst-Payne wrote.

Montgomery Steppe’s letter from May 19 had included 12 questions that she wanted the district to address. 

“I am writing this correspondence because of my grave concerns over the instability at LHS. Perpetual missteps have turned into a crisis that continues to impact our entire community,” Montgomery Steppe wrote. She specifically sought information about student performance and why the director of the school, who had helped manage it alongside the principal, had recently departed abruptly.

The questions and letter were unacceptable to Whitehurst-Payne. 

“You should also know better than to request private personnel information related to employees of the district. I find it incredibly unprofessional to demand information on the transfer of an employee,” she wrote. 

School Board President Richard Barrera had already dismissed Montgomery Steppe’s letter in a statement to the Union-Tribune. But the letter from Whitehurst-Payne was a significant escalation of the rhetoric and was seething in contempt: “Should you decide to educate yourself appropriately on Lincoln’s status, here is what you will find,” it reads, before listing accomplishments not directly responsive to Montgomery Steppe’s questions. 

Mayors at Odds Over SB 9

In a new Union-Tribune op-ed, Mayor Todd Gloria hypes SB 9, a bill written by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins that would allow duplexes and four-plexes on single-family lots.

Gloria’s support for the measure isn’t a surprise: As a member of the Assembly last year, he voted for a nearly identical bill that ultimately failed. The revived version of that bill is now SB 9.

In his commentary, Gloria issues a challenge to those who complain about homelessness and housing affordability: Support solutions, or stop complaining. “If you’re telling us that you’re embarrassed by the homelessness that plagues our city, you’re telling us that you’ll accept affordable homes in your community,” he writes.

Meanwhile, Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner expanded on why she doesn’t support the measure. Last week, she told VOSD’s Sara Libby that she opposes the bill and doesn’t think it will work for wealthy coastal communities like hers.

In a series of responses to that piece, Heebner said that because the measure doesn’t include affordable housing provisions, it could make housing more expensive in places like Solana Beach: “It’s an unfounded myth that in desirable places more supply will drive prices down,” she wrote.

In Other News

  • In this week’s Learning Curve, Will Huntsberry contrasts the rhetoric being used to promote San Diego Unified’s new summer “experiences,” with the availability of those programs. 
  • The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is set to require workers to continue wearing masks unless everyone in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. (NBC San Diego)
  • A community choice energy program serving Riverside County is filing for bankruptcy. Leaders of two similar programs in San Diego County say they’re financially secure. (Union-Tribune)
  • A day after local and federal law enforcement officials held a press conference warning about increasingly dangerous human smuggling efforts, federal agents detained more than a dozen people who’d crossed into the country in a fishing boat. (NBC San Diego)

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Scott Lewis.

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