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Councilman Chris Cate Pushes For Opening Libraries For Students And Families

A closed sign at the San Diego Public Library Kensington on April 6, 2020, be...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: A closed sign at the San Diego Public Library Kensington on April 6, 2020, because of COVID-19.

San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate sent a letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer Friday, asking for the city's libraries to be reopened in light of school years beginning and a decreasing case rate of COVID-19 in the county.

"I am requesting that the city evaluate options to safely reopen all city libraries as soon as possible. This can, and must, be done safely by following all social-distancing, health, and sanitation guidelines," he said.

In the letter, he acknowledges that the majority of students will be participating in distance learning, but that resources are far from equitably distributed.

"Not all students have equal access to resources to fully succeed under this new method of learning," Cate wrote. "Libraries have always been the great equalizer for children, youth and adults of all backgrounds. They provide much needed resources, such as books, computers and safe productive places to learn and work."

He cited the city's "Cool Zone" program as evidence that city leadership can handle both indoor facilities and the pandemic in a safe manner.

Cate, chair of the city's economic development and intergovernmental relations committee, has been the driving force on the council to open parks for business purposes and last week petitioned both local and state officials for small, socially distanced entertainment shows -- particularly live comedy performances.

If the county's COVID-19 case rate remains below 100 per 100,000 residents, schools could open for in-person teaching by as soon as Sept. 1.

"As students begin the school year, we should also be evaluating how we can safely reopen our city libraries to provide children with much needed resources to ensure academic success," he wrote. "Not doing so would greatly impact the ability for children to learn, especially those who are in lower-income families with fewer resources."

He said this could include reducing the maximum capacity of libraries to allow for proper distancing or implementing a reservation system which ensures that the number of individuals in a library never exceeds the safe maximum capacity at any given time.

The City Council is currently on its summer hiatus but could consider an ordinance in mid-September. Faulconer could potentially file an executive order before then.

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