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Interactive School Reopening Map Launched By California

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Classroom School reopening

With debate continuing to rage locally and statewide about reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, California health officials released an interactive map on Friday that allows residents of the state to track the status of campus reopenings.

The Safe Schools Reopening Map provides data on the status of reopening and safety planning for school districts, charter and private schools in Los Angeles and across California. 

Officials hope it will help communities and school staff evaluate their own reopening plans. Schools will update their information every two weeks, and the California Department of Public Health will add data on reported outbreaks in each school district and information about whether schools have partnered with the Valencia Branch Lab for COVID-19 testing. 

“As COVID-19 conditions continue to improve and vaccinations ramp up throughout the state, this map will provide local communities with accessible, up-to-date information on how districts in their communities and beyond are adapting to the pandemic, including safety planning and implementation,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “This map is one of many resources we have made available that will help school staff and families make informed decisions as we safely reopen our schools.” 

The map was created through a partnership between the state, county office of education and the California Collaborative in Education Excellence. 

The Safe Schools Reopening Map as of Friday. Areas in dark blue are open for in-person learning and areas in light blue are open for hybrid learning.

Newsom has said he is nearing an agreement with state legislators on his proposed $6.6 billion plan to expediting the reopening of school campuses, with sweeping safety measures, limits on numbers of students in classrooms and protective equipment provisions.

 But officials from several of the state’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have balked at the governor’s plan, saying it falls short on funding for urban school districts. 

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and the United Teachers Los Angeles union have also called for campuses to remain closed until teachers and staff can be vaccinated — a position opposed by Newsom. 

On Friday afternoon, a group of parents from across California held a virtual news conference to urge that schools not be reopened amid what they call “critically high community transmission rates,” as well as virus variants, lack of safety measures and unclear vaccine distribution plans. 

“I’m here to represent many parents who don’t agree that schools should be reopened because we know that COVID-19 is still impacting us and our communities … are still the epicenter of this pandemic,” LAUSD mother Maria Osorio said in Spanish. “Frankly, a lot of those families who want schools to be reopened are probably more financially stable, they’re more well off, and they live in communities where infection rates are much lower. And so the situation that we’re facing is very different to the situation that they’re facing.” 

Osorio, who has four children and lives in South Los Angeles, also noted that many LAUSD students take public transportation to school, so the risk of infection will not only come from learning inside classrooms, but from commuting to campuses. 

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released what it calls a roadmap of guidelines for the reopening of schools. The document urges local health officials to give “high priority to teachers in early phases of vaccine distribution,” but it says vaccines are not required for in-person learning. `

`Vaccinating teachers and school staff can be considered one layer of mitigation and protection for staff and students,” according to the CDC document. “Strategies to minimize barriers to accessing vaccination for teachers and other frontline essential workers, such as vaccine clinics at or close to the place of work, are optimal. Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction.” 

During the parents’ news conference, Matthew Schneck, a teacher in San Diego, said “kids are not experiments,” in response to a CDC report he said noted that COVID-19 variants require additional research and reopening guidelines may need to be updated. 

“The CDC seems ready to admit that yes, infections will still happen even with all of these mitigation measures,” he said.

Current state guidelines allow the reopening of school campuses for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade when a county’s COVID-19 average rate of new cases drops to 25 per 100,000 residents. 

Los Angeles County’s rate is currently about 31 new cases per 100,000, but it has been steadily dropping, and it could meet the required threshold as early as next week.

 Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger on Friday sent a letter to Newsom calling for the immediate opening of all K-6 classrooms, while also asking that he allow grades 7 through 12 to open, even in counties like Los Angeles that are in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s economic reopening matrix. `

`The safety of reopening the classroom has been well-documented worldwide, and our children cannot wait another day to get back to school,” Barger wrote. “While our youngest children have had the most difficulty accessing online education, the impact has been felt by children of all ages.”

To see the Safe Schools Reopening Map, visit here.

Education

CSUN To Provide iPad Air To All First-Time Freshmen, Transfers

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CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) is one of eight CSU campuses that are part of the first phase of a new initiative, which provides a new iPad Air and other Apple products to first-time students.

The program called, California State University Connectivity Contribution to Equity and Student Success (CSUCCESS) is aimed at enhancing student achievement and create more equitable opportunities for students across the CSU system.

CSUN will be offering an iPad Air, Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard Folio to all first-time freshmen and new transfer students who register to participate in the initiative. The students will be able to keep the equipment, for free, through the completion of their undergraduate degree at the university.

“As a university committed to access, inclusion and technological innovation, CSUN is excited to join in the CSUCCESS Initiative and offer this powerful resource to our new students,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said in a statement.. “We’re working tirelessly to remove barriers that may dim our students’ bright futures, and CSUCCESS is another impactful investment in student success.”

In addition to CSUN, the other CSU campuses participating in the launch of CSUCCESS are Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy and San Marcos. CSU officials hope to expand the initiative to all students in the California State University system in the future.

CSU officials noted that throughout the course of the pandemic, access to computing equipment and connectivity was identified as an obstacle for some CSU students. Over the course of the past year, the CSU invested more than $18 million to purchase more than 21,000 laptops and tablets and 10,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for students, in addition to loaning out millions of dollars of existing equipment.

There are no income-based eligibility requirements. Devices are expected to be made available in August. Upon graduation from CSUN, students will be asked to return the equipment. The devices are provided on a loaned basis so as not to impact students’ financial aid.

CSUN students can find out more about the initiative and register to participate here

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Hollywood Celebrities Partner With LAUSD To Create Film, Television Academy

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Photo by Michael Vlasaty

A dozen Hollywood actors and producers have teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to create a film and television academy.

The coalition of leaders is spearheaded by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria, Working Title Films founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, are partnering with the LAUSD to found the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, a specialized academy housed within the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

Set to launch in Fall 2022 as a magnet school, the Roybal School of Film and Television Production will provide Los Angeles Unified teachers with access to renowned storytellers, along with industry professionals and experts, and support students with a robust academic education and practical training, establishing a clear pathway to good-paying jobs, according to the district.

The inaugural program, to be overseen by Principal Blanca Cruz, will feature a specifically designed curriculum developed to meet the standards prescribed by the state of California and the University of California system. 

“We are really excited about this remarkable opportunity for collaboration and learning,” Roybal  Principal Blanca Cruz said in a statement. “Not only will it provide our students much-needed resources to support their hands-on learning experiences that are relevant in the entertainment industry, but it will also offer them the guidance and expertise needed to help them realize their inherent potential.”

In addition, students will receive real-world experience through a dedicated internship initiative. The Roybal School of Film and Television Production will start with ninth- and 10th-grade students and include Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, with potential opportunity to expand the pilot program to more schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

“Our aim is to better reflect the diversity of our country. That means starting early. It means creating high school programs that teach young people about cameras, and editing and visual effects and sound and all the career opportunities that this industry has to offer. It means internships that lead to well-paying careers. It means understanding that we’re all in this together,” Clooney said in a statement. 

The founding members will serve on the Roybal School of Film and Television Production Advisory Board, lending their expertise and support to build a more inclusive pipeline of career-ready talent for the film and television industry.

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CSUN Receives Largest Donation In University History From MacKenzie Scott

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CSUN Cal State Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced Tuesday that philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett donated $40 million, the largest gift from a single donor in the institution’s history.

Scott, the former partner of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated a total of $2.74 billion to organizations that focus on the arts and combating racial discrimination.

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in a post announcing the billions in donations.

The gift to CSUN, which is designated to support presidential priorities, comes at an especially advantageous time for the university.

Erika D. Beck, who assumed the presidency of CSUN in January of this year, recently issued a report on what she heard during an intensive listening tour during her first 100 days. The report is the first step to a university-wide process starting this fall to create a roadmap for the future.

“This transformative gift provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our future as leaders in equity-centered student success to provide a brighter and more equitable future for our students, their families and the communities we are so proud to serve,” said Beck.

Among the priorities identified in the Listening Tour Report, are the elimination of equity gaps, accelerating the work in diversifying the faculty, academic excellence, holistic student support and facilitating CSUN students’ educational goals and intellectual promise.

“While one-time dollars cannot be used to support long-term expenses in perpetuity, with a mix of focused spending and investment, we can, and will, use these dollars to transform our campus for generations to come,” Beck added.

Scott and Jewett’s gifts to higher education have focused on institutions that have higher proportions of students from historically underserved communities and excel at supporting their success. 

With multiple programs ranked nationally for their quality and excellence, CSUN was recently ranked 4th in the nation on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures a college’s success at moving students up the social and economic ladder.

Other Southern California colleges and organizations also received donations from the couple, including Pasadena City College and the  L.A. Arts Endowment Fund.

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