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Sweetwater Board Votes On School Reopening Plan As North County Districts See Theirs Curtailed

 March 9, 2021 at 1:44 PM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 A plan to reopen South Bay Sweetwater high school district. Speaker 2: 00:05 So the plan allows for 10% of students at each school to come back for in-person learning. Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh, Jade Heideman is out today. This is KPBS day edition. The race is on to replace it. Shirley Weber in San Diego, 79th assembly district. Speaker 3: 00:29 Every state position is important in itself, but I do think that Weber wasn't a especially important figure in the legislature. Speaker 1: 00:37 San Diego's urban native American community works to counter vaccine hesitancy and mariachi music brings comfort and hope through the pandemic. That's ahead on midday edition, Speaker 1: 01:00 Middle and high school districts in San Diego's North and South counties are eager to get plans approved for reopening, but on Sunday state officials put the brakes on the reopening requests of several North County districts. Meanwhile, the Sweetwater union high school district has approved a deal with teachers' unions for limited reopening, but all of the reopening plans now remain contingent on San Diego. Moving from the most restrictive purple COVID tier to the red. Joining me is KPBS education reporter Joe Hong Joe. Welcome. Thanks for having me. The Sweetwater union district held its vote on the reopening plan last night. What are the main elements of that plan? Speaker 2: 01:41 So the plan allows for 10% of students at each school to come back for in-person learning. Now, um, Sweetwater's reopening plan is a bit of a baby step compared to other districts in San Diego County because the zip codes in the Sweetwater school district have had such high case numbers throughout the pandemic. For instance, this is a much more modest proposal than what San Diego unified has put out. The district is hoping to bring back all of its students on April 12th. Now Sweetwater is focusing on prioritizing high needs students, which is essentially where other districts were at the beginning of 2021. Uh, I spoke with Sweetwater teachers' union president Julie Walker yesterday. Here's what you said about who qualifies to come back to the classroom. Speaker 3: 02:22 Children who are special ed children, who are from low income homes and students who are language learners. Those are our big threes and they will get first availability for any open slots that are there. We will offer it to all of them. Speaker 1: 02:39 Now, Joe, you mentioned those zip codes, this deal calls for not just the County to qualify for red tier status, but for the zip codes in the Sweetwater district to also have COVID positivity rates that fall from purple to red, is that likely to happen anytime soon? Speaker 2: 02:56 I think so. You know, these zip codes, we're case rates that were double or triple the County averages just a few months ago, and now with vaccinations underway, the case rates in these neighborhoods are still higher than the County average, but definitely not as much. And with the County progressing towards the red tier. Now I think these South Bay zip codes should be close behind. Speaker 1: 03:15 What about elementary schools in the South Bay? Is there a plan to reopen those grades? Speaker 2: 03:20 Yeah, so Chula Vista elementary school district is the big one. Um, and it announced last week that it's currently preparing to start some form of in-person instruction. You know, they're, they haven't released many details yet, but we know that it won't happen before April 5th. Speaker 1: 03:37 Okay. So moving to the North County, a group of North County, middle and high school districts, they got a thumbs down from state officials on their reopening plans. What were they proposing? Speaker 2: 03:48 Right. So San Dieguito union high power unified and Carlsbad unified were three districts that we're hoping to use a sort of state exemption process to reopen their middle and high schools while the County is still in the purple tier. So in the case of Poway unified, you know, without getting too much into the weeds, the district made the argument to the state that the district qualified to reopen middle and high schools for part-time in-person instruction because the district had already been taking steps towards reopening before the state changed its guidelines back in January and Poway was planning on starting, uh, opening middle and high schools on March 16th, which is next week, but San Dieguito union high school districts there, they were in more of a sort of dire situation because they got the denial letter on Sunday evening. And they were actually planning on reopening middle and high schools, uh, yesterday on Monday. So they really had to scramble. And, um, there were a lot of upset folks up there. Speaker 1: 04:49 The North County reopening plans apparently got the okay from San Diego County, Dr. Wilma Wooten. So was it a surprise when those plans were denied? Speaker 2: 05:00 Yeah, I think it was, you know, I, I spoke with Poway, uh, superintendent Marianne can felt yesterday and she said, all of the districts submitted very detailed plans for reopening, but they all got the same generic denial letter. And she said she was disappointed because each of the districts submitted plans that were thoughtful and sort of tailored to their own district. But the state didn't seem to put the same amount of thought into its response. And here's what Kim Phelps said yesterday. Speaker 4: 05:26 It feels like that the state has no interest in reopening all schools, rather just elementary schools. We have our elementary schools open, but how do we, the question is how do we reopen all of our secondary schools and get our secondary kids back into our schools? Speaker 1: 05:42 Why were these North County districts so certain that they were going to get the green light on this special state exam? Speaker 2: 05:50 Yeah, I think, uh, really the surprise came from the fact that the districts really did things by the book. You know, they got multiple County officials to sort of support their proposals, to reopen, uh, folks like you mentioned, uh, Dr. Wooten. And then they had all the safety guidelines in place. You know, all the social distancing measures, the smaller class sizes, the th the ventilation in the classrooms. And so now to these administrators, it just seems like the state is contradicting itself by denying their, their proposal to reopen. Speaker 1: 06:20 And what were the state's reasons for keeping those higher grades closed Speaker 2: 06:25 The state isn't allowing middle and high schools three open unless students who go on campus spend the entire day with the same group of 15 students and the same teacher and anyone who's been to a traditional high school knows that there's never any two students who have all the same classes together. Right? So from a scheduling perspective, it becomes impossible to meet that state criteria for reopening. Speaker 1: 06:48 So all the districts are waiting for San Diego to enter the red tier. And that looks like it could take a couple more weeks, right? Speaker 2: 06:56 Yeah, that's right. Um, but district administrators are hopeful that this is truly the light at the end of the tunnel. You know, um, like I mentioned, San Diego unified, which is the state's second largest districts came out with a pretty firm date of April 12th. And I think we should see that as a positive sign for all the students and parents who've been waiting so long to get back to school. Speaker 1: 07:16 I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Thanks. Thanks for having me. The debate over reopening schools is heating up here in California. Governor Gavin Newsome has signed a bill that offers over $6 billion to help get schools back to in-person instruction. But the issue of returning to in-person instruction is polarizing parents, teachers, and communities. Speaker 5: 07:45 They're having emotional issues. My kindergartner now is refusing to do the work and just flipping the lead of her tablet down. And my fourth grader is, has been diagnosed during the time with clinical depression and has had suicide ideations as well. I never met my teacher in person, so I really want to, I teach her and there's some new kids in my class who I haven't met Swan to meet them too. I'm a special education teacher. I'm also a parent and you see the comments and the vitriolic just that what's being thrown at us about how we teachers are just, you know, sitting on our laurels, collecting our huge paychecks. I don't know what world these folks are living in. I definitely didn't get into teaching for the big, the big bucks. I think ultimately the result will be many people will move away or enrolled in PA in private schools or charter schools. Speaker 5: 08:33 And that will further hurt the district that is hurting already. I've known too many people to have Corona virus to feel comfortable going back. The people pushing to return to in person are typically more privileged. If you got COVID, would you be going to a hospital where you full health insurance? Do you have a guest room where you can quarantine, would you be putting your grandmother or your mother or your, you know, who else would you be putting at risk? Uh, my father was a longshoreman and their motto is an injury to one is an injury doc all. And so I feel like that is the motto we need to have with. COVID like, if we are risking one grandmother dying, one teacher dying, one custodian dying, one student dying, then it's not worth it. Speaker 1: 09:28 That last voice you heard is Whitney Dwyer. She's a teacher in Oakland and she's worried about teenagers at her high school, spreading the virus while she's cautious about reopening. She's also aware that distance learning is taking a toll on students. And parents is also taking a toll on teachers like her, especially those with their own kids at home. K QEDs, Vanessa Rancano asked Dwyer to keep an audio diary for a day, documenting her every move. Speaker 5: 10:01 So I just woke up. I set my alarm for six. I usually wake up at six 30, but Speaker 6: 10:07 Whitney Dwyer teaches 10th grade at MetWest high school in Oakland. She's gotta be ready for class in two and a half hours. But right now she's got other things on her mind Speaker 5: 10:18 Trying to debate. If I should go to the grocery store right now, we can't go grocery shopping with the kids. So it's less stressful if I go while they're sleeping. And then my husband doesn't have to worry about watching them while I go. And she's Speaker 6: 10:32 Already hearing from her students Speaker 5: 10:34 So that it texts for my students saying that his power is like on and off last night when I was asleep. So he may not make it to class today. And he may not be the only one. I'm also pizza, because that was the only breakfast we had that I could take. Speaker 6: 10:52 She decides to make that dash to the store. Breakfast is a slice of leftover pizza on the way driving home. She runs through a list of the things she needs to get done before her class starts at 9:00 AM. Speaker 5: 11:05 Get them dressed cereal, make sure that two year old uses the potty. Speaker 6: 11:11 Whitney has three kids, Brendan nine, Grayson seven and Maxwell too. Speaker 5: 11:17 I really hope that I can keep my patients. I've really been impressed with the amount of patients. I've been able to have Speaker 6: 11:26 Brendan in Greece in need to be on their computers to start school. Now, her husband, Anthony gives Maxwell blocks and puzzles. While she settles into the guest room, that's become her office. It's eight 30. Speaker 5: 11:40 So here's my, my setup and distance learning really requires two screens. Um, I'm going to start class now, right? So our agenda for today, we are going to review them recap with a lightning round Speaker 6: 11:58 17 of her 21, humanity students show up all of them have their cameras off. Speaker 5: 12:03 I also want to remind you that your participation credit goes up. If your camera is on, I'm feeling a little lonely. Although sometimes I get tired of sounding desperate, Please. I just feel so alone. Can someone just turn their camera on? It doesn't even have to be on your face. It could be at a window. Whitney's Speaker 6: 12:24 Had to adjust to the silence too. Speaker 5: 12:26 Any questions about that? Feel like I was just talking a lot Speaker 6: 12:30 Answers. Almost always come over zoom chat. And sometimes only Whitney can see them. It's like listening to half a conversation. Speaker 5: 12:37 Thank you. Laelani Oh, I don't know about all that Speaker 6: 12:40 Might've been classroom chatter is now a series of chat exchanges and text shorthand. LOL Ella Mayo, OMG, T Y Y w question Mark. Sometimes Whitney can tell her students aren't actually at their computer. Speaker 5: 12:55 I need a little bit more from you. Okay. Speaker 6: 12:56 She teaches about the Aztecs and the Mayans using a new digital tool. She's got her troubleshoot on the side. Speaker 5: 13:03 And so I'm like trying to teach. And then I'm like, it's like private chat, chat, text. It's it's a lot to navigate. Speaker 6: 13:12 There's one moment. When the topic of slave labor among the Mayans comes up where there's something almost like a normal class discussion. Speaker 5: 13:19 Imagine being dependent on slave labor, I could argue our society slave labor. I mean, there are very low wages. Speaker 6: 13:31 The limitations are still painfully clear. It's hard to hear. They can't see each other. Speaker 5: 13:36 Teaching over zoom basically takes away almost everything that I enjoy about teaching. Now it's just, you know, nightmares of black boxes. Speaker 6: 13:51 There are still moments of connection. After class 16 year old memo Martinez stays on to get advice. He even turns his camera on at this school. All students are expected to take on internships, memos, having a hard time picking one. Speaker 5: 14:07 I really wasn't interested in. I'm like, Oh, why did I do this? And after that, another interest happens here. If I go into cooking, then I'm like, yo, bro, I don't want to do that later. I thought, yo, what if I work in automotives? And just a bunch of what ifs? I don't know. I just can say, it's wonderful. It's beautiful. Like never change it sex to just have one interest. Speaker 6: 14:28 This is what Whitney misses most about teaching. Speaker 5: 14:31 I love how their minds work. Speaker 6: 14:35 Whitney has two minutes to run to the bathroom before her teacher planning meeting starts at 10 30 Speaker 5: 14:40 And then I'll check their work. And it turns out that they weren't reading. Yeah. Speaker 6: 14:44 It's a chance to get crucial professional and emotional support. Speaker 5: 14:47 I only had two brave souls today that were down to read out loud. It's harder than in school. Speaker 6: 14:54 It's the closest thing Whitney has to the staff room. These days, Speaker 3: 14:59 We're quiet for like a good, maybe 30 seconds. Speaker 6: 15:06 It's almost new now. And time to take over parenting. So her husband can go back to work. That means lunch and homework and bathroom time for Maxwell. Speaker 3: 15:16 It's time to go to the pie even better right now, Speaker 5: 15:27 26 text messages, messages on 11 different Slack channels. Talking about some of my students that Speaker 3: 15:34 Are absent for class. Speaker 6: 15:36 Most days, most of Whitney students show up. Some are doing well. Their grades and reading levels have gone up. Then there are the ones who were taking care of siblings, the ones who don't have stable housing, she's lost track of one student altogether. And then there's her own son's academic progress. Speaker 3: 15:56 You do this every day. Every day job I read it was my teacher usually no. Speaker 6: 16:05 Oh, this is the hardest moment in Whitney's day. The hardest part of distance learning, knowing some students need more than she can give that our own kids made to drop Speaker 3: 16:16 Sending to stab yourself in the neck with the pencil. Not funny, not funny at all. Are you guys going to be okay? I'm ready. It's happening now? Oh good. Speaker 6: 16:27 After helping Brendan and Grayson with their homework. When he puts Maxwell down for a nap, then pleads with her older boys to keep quiet so she can meet with her school leaders over zoom. She's presenting a proposal for teachers to get more training on how to support students and parents who are dealing with trauma. Speaker 5: 16:45 I've had so many instances just this year. There's like death is always around us. Speaker 6: 16:53 As hard as it's been to adapt to this new way of teaching. It's the world students face outside the classroom that she hasn't been able to troubleshoot her way out. Speaker 5: 17:02 They have a strong relationship with me than with anyone else. So it's difficult for anyone else to provide that support. Speaker 6: 17:09 She struggles to name the solution, more financial resources to point families to better mental health services. She's compelled to take these questions on with her colleagues, even though it's just one more thing. Speaker 3: 17:23 Um, yes. Speaker 6: 17:26 At the end of the day after dinner, after putting the kids to bed, Whitney sits down to send work emails. Speaker 5: 17:32 I had intentions to do work that night and I fell asleep at my computer. Speaker 6: 17:36 One more thing pushed to Sunday night when she's regularly up until 3:00 AM catching up on the week's work for the California report. I'm Vanessa Rancano in Oakland. Speaker 1: 17:54 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. What governor Gavin Newsome delivers his state of the state speech from Dodgers stadium in Los Angeles. Tonight the campaign to recall him from office will be the backdrop and KQBD politics editor. Scott Schaffer says whether or not the recall ultimately succeeds the California Republican party is hoping to benefit from it Speaker 7: 18:19 This past weekend in Vacaville I half hour Southwest of Sacramento, a couple of dozen volunteers gathered with recall Newsome signs, waving American flags as passing cars honked in support sign, and then put your full addresses. How you registered to vote. Michelle guara is chair of the Solano County Republican party. She's here corralling people to sign, recall petitions and making sure their voter information is up to date. How long has it been since you've updated your registration, your signature, have you updated your information? Do you need to change your information among those who stopped to sign a petition was David versa, a 32 year old Republican who says for him the recall his personal, my friend group, family group. Um, we're having a hard time here and it just feels like Newson. Isn't helping us out at all. It feels like he doesn't care. You know, when we see them eat in restaurants and doing stuff like that, it, it really, uh, shows where his loyalties lie, you know, a week from tomorrow is the deadline for signatures. Speaker 7: 19:18 And recall organizers say they've got more than enough. Jessica Milan Patterson is chair of the California Republican party. She says, while the recall, didn't start out as a purely Republican effort. They're all in. Now we saw that there is a movement there and we joined [inaudible] because it's the right thing to do for California. And for the Republican party, Patterson says the recall is a chance to showcase the GOP as an alternative to democratic policies voters. Don't like from the pandemic to the death penalty, it's also a way to engage volunteers in what was supposed to be a relatively quiet year. As far as politics goes, we've done about a million phone calls chasing the signature petitions from individuals who should have received it and getting those back in. So keeping the volunteers engaged in a quote unquote off here is phenomenal. The Republican national committee has kicked in $250,000 toward the recall effort. And it looks like money. Won't be a problem if the recall qualifies for the ballot Randy economy. Yup. That's his real name is the official spokesman for the recall campaign. He's a former Democrat turned independent, turned Republican, and he insists the recall is non-partisan. Speaker 1: 20:35 I know that the Republican party structure has decided to get involved in the campaign. Of course they are. We couldn't stop them from doing that. Everybody has the right to get involved, but our campaign is not based upon, um, you know, the wishes of the Speaker 7: 20:48 Republican party or its Republican party operative. At the same time economy acknowledges some of our greatest volunteers are chairmans of the individual County Republican parties up into that, a County or Eldorado County or Alameda County political operative, and more as a consultant for the recall campaign, she says, if nothing else, the effort to get rid of Newsome puts Democrats on the defensive while giving the GOP an opportunity to reach voters who might not otherwise be receptive to their message. They're certainly using it as an organizing tool. Um, it's certainly catching fire. There's certainly a benefit to it and you can see it because all the County parties are starting to surf that way. Republican consultant, Rob Stutzman, who worked on the 2003 recall of governor gray Davis says this gives Republicans a chance to talk about how they would govern the state differently from Democrats. And as long as you know, Trump related candidates stay out of it. They're not talking about Donald Trump. So it's a very good opportunity, uh, for the party to grow beyond its current base. Meanwhile, governor Newsome is hoping that by the time the recall election happens later this year, but pandemic will be in the rear view mirror. And that voters will be in no mood to replace him with a Republican I'm Scott Schaffer Speaker 1: 22:05 KPBS will broadcast Newsome state of the state address live to night at six, Speaker 1: 22:16 Early voting is now underway to pick the next assembly member for San Diego's 79th district. The district includes Southeastern San Diego lemon Grove Lamesa and parts of Chula Vista and national city. Five candidates are running. They break down into four Democrats and one Republican, four women and one man, and for people of color and one white candidate, they are each trying to fill the shoes of a giant among San Diego politicians. Dr. Shirley Weber represented the 79th district until her appointment this year as California, secretary of state joining me is voice of San Diego managing editor, Sarah, Olivia, and Sarah. Welcome. Speaker 8: 22:55 Thank you so much. Does Speaker 1: 22:57 The fact that one of these candidates will be replacing Shirley Weber, make this an especially important race? Speaker 8: 23:03 I think that it does, obviously every state position is important in itself, but I do think that Weber wasn't especially important figure in the legislature for a few reasons. She was one of the few people who was really the most willing to challenge some very powerful groups in the state, including teachers unions and police unions, and really press those groups for accountability. And, you know, each lawmaker has their own style, but she is definitely one who stands out as somebody who is unafraid to propose really big and ambitious laws and reforms. And so that makes her pretty unique as well. Well, the candidates in the 79th Speaker 1: 23:46 District are Democrats Dr. Akilah Weber, labor attorney, Leticia Munguia teachers, Shane, Suzanne Parmalee and generation justice, founder Aramaic glass Blake, the sole Republican in the race is business owner, Marco Contrarez. So Sarah let's start with the candidate with the largest name recognition, Dr. Akilah Weber, Shirley Weber's daughter. What does she bring to the race? Speaker 8: 24:12 Yeah, so she has pretty direct experience in dealing with two of the biggest crises that are facing our communities right now. Uh, one being COVID-19 you mentioned she's a medical doctor and also a lot of the racial justice issues as they relate to policing. She's been a member of the Lamesa city council as that city dealt with, you know, rioting and a lot of anger over an incident, uh, where a police officer targeted and arrested a black man. Um, and let me say this also in the midst of hiring a new police chief. And so she's been involved in that process. Speaker 1: 24:48 Well, the TCM on Munguia is a labor attorney. Who's worked for the teacher's union and she also actually has some pretty impressive endorsements doesn't she? Speaker 8: 24:59 She does. Um, you know, as you might imagine, as somebody who works for a labor group, she has a lot of labor groups across the state behind her, um, as well as the legislative Latino caucus. And so with that comes, a lot of support Speaker 1: 25:16 Is education that is getting kids back to school. One of the big issues in the, Speaker 8: 25:22 I think it absolutely is. It's certainly the biggest issue facing, uh, both the governor and the legislature right now. And, you know, you have two candidates who have direct involvement and in schools and the teacher's union. And so that really ramps things up, uh, there's Shirley Weber's legacy of working on schools, um, and education issues. And so when you combine all of that, I think, you know, it really is at the forefront for this race. Speaker 1: 25:52 Is there a difference among these candidates about whether or not kids should be getting back to school? Speaker 8: 25:59 Well, I think, um, one interesting thing that came up during a debate that we held between the candidates was, um, disagreement on whether various districts will be returning and in what form. Um, I think, you know, Shane permanently is a teacher and has supportive a lot of individual teachers in this, uh, race. She's gotten a lot of small donations from teachers across the County. Um, but she mentioned that she doesn't think, for example, San Diego Unified's reopening target date, um, is much of a, a done deal or an official thing. And so I think nailing down the state's role in reopening schools is, you know, a continued issue that lawmakers will face. I'm not sure that I've heard a lot of individual distinctions between the candidates as far as how they might differ on doing that. Speaker 1: 26:56 What are some of the other big issues in this race? Speaker 8: 27:00 Well, we mentioned policing, um, you know, army glass Blake is a racial justice advocate advocate. And I think, um, has said she would take a strong interest in those issues at the state level. But I think also just in general, um, helping local businesses and local economies recover from the pandemic will be at the forefront, even though the state managed to have a good year economically, um, kind of unexpectedly local cities are in a much different position and they're going to be dealing with budget issues for possibly years to come. And so I think helping local businesses and local economies navigate those challenges will, um, definitely be something this next person deals with. Speaker 1: 27:43 And that's one of the issues that the Republican in the race Mako Contraras has been very vocal about, isn't it? Speaker 8: 27:50 Yes. So he is a business owner and, um, he's gotten a lot of support, not just from Republican groups, but individual, um, business owners across the state, particularly, uh, developers, a lot of prominent developers from San Diego have supported his candidacy as well as people like insurance, um, professionals and, and just a lot of prominent business leaders, uh, across the state. Speaker 1: 28:17 How big a factor is the candidates race in this election? Speaker 8: 28:23 I think it's become a pretty big issue even if the candidates aren't necessarily, um, talking about it directly. Shirley Weber was a key figure in racial justice conversations in the state, and she was one of the few black women in the assembly, but the district itself has a large Latino population about 33% and Latinos are also underrepresented in the legislature compared to their population in the state. So, um, you know, it's interesting, two of the men who had considered running for this seat eventually decided to sit it out. And they said specifically that they thought the seat should go to a black woman. Um, and so the legislative black caucus is behind Akila Weber and the legislative Latino caucus is behind, um, Latisha. And so it certainly has, uh, shaped up to be something that's kind of underscoring all of the other issues we're discussing. Okay. Speaker 1: 29:19 And is there any candidate who is showing an advantage in donations in fundraising to be able to get out mailers and things of that nature? Speaker 8: 29:29 Yeah, so far Akilah Weber has dominated, um, the fundraising. I was checking just today and there's an independent it's expenditure group that is spending a lot of money on her behalf, um, for purchasing TV ads and things like that. And so, so far, you know, there's a short window of the initial voting day is coming up. Um, and so she certainly looks to have the biggest advantage as far as money so far. Speaker 1: 29:59 Okay. So early voting and mail-in voting continue until election day, April 6th. And there are enough candidates that we may not have a winner at on that date. So what happens then? Speaker 8: 30:12 So the top two vote getters in that case would move on to a general election special election that would happen in early June. Speaker 1: 30:22 Okay. Thank you. I've been speaking with voice of San Diego, managing editor, Sarah, Olivia, Sarah. Good to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Body mind, spirit and indivisible combination. That is the cornerstone for holistic wellness for native Americans. KPBS is Maya Trabelsi explains how the local urban native American community has been uniquely affected by the pandemic. Speaker 9: 30:53 Ruben Leyva pours kernels of dried corn from a small pouch. It's an offering to honor the land at the San Diego American Indian health center, turning in each direction for the four phases of life from children to elders Don. So that means hello. In the Apache language, I am a Shirakawa Chindia patchy. He's a member of the board of directors at this clinic in banker's Hill. And I stand here honored and humble to speak to you on Coney Island started in 1979. The clinic provides a hub of services for patients that are made up of 33% native Americans. Leyva says the clinic represents so much more than that for the urban indigenous community. The urban community is different than the tribal community, because many of us here in the urban areas may not be traditional to these lands. And so we rely on places like San Diego, American Indian health center to establish networks of support within the community. Speaker 9: 31:57 In order to understand how COVID-19 has impacted made of Americans. Leyva offers some historical context dating back to 1519. When Hernand Cortez entered the Americas, he came across Montezuma and the Aztecs. And from that point forward, we've been battling diseases. He says native Americans born into historical trauma, want to acknowledge the harm committed against them, but can use the struggles of the past to turn into positive outcomes, including the fight against the latest pandemic. Ronnie white horse is an RN here and a member of the Navajo nation in Arizona, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. We can't go back, Speaker 10: 32:41 You know, without endangering a lot of, Speaker 9: 32:44 She shares real concerns of members on the reservations because of lack of supplies or medicine. Speaker 10: 32:50 So having this vaccine here and the ability to give it out is really, really huge for us. Speaker 9: 32:58 But even with the availability of the vaccine, white horse faces resistance. When calling on patients to come in for their shots, Speaker 10: 33:05 We don't have a good historical history with the government. So that's the basis of a lot of our mistrust. Speaker 11: 33:13 I can imagine how people would say now, wait a minute. Speaker 9: 33:16 Health center CEO, Kevin LaChapelle says the organization is built around the patient with native Americans, serving native Americans, which helps build trust to be indigenous on turtle Island. The clinic uses social media to engage urban members with classes and cultural activities. Cloth. When it comes to vaccination, hesitancy, LaChapelle says patience is paramount, but social media has helped on that front too Speaker 11: 33:46 Things we did to counter it, which was really amazing as some of our board members, um, that our elders, uh, they said, you know what, when I get mine, I'm happy to do it on video and give a message and show that I'm doing this because I believe that we have to protect each other. That helps Speaker 9: 34:02 One of those elders is Randy Edmonds. Speaker 12: 34:05 I'm from the Kiowa and Kevin nations of Oklahoma Speaker 9: 34:09 Edmunds received both COVID 19 vaccinations, his visits, documented and posted on Facebook to encourage the community to follow suit. Speaker 12: 34:16 So they could, uh, understand that this elder would like to continue living and once to take the shot, to make sure that that happens Speaker 9: 34:27 Driver of the residential program and later relocated to California by the Bureau of Indian Speaker 12: 34:32 In history, we have been lied to. We have been disenfranchised by that. We began to lose traditions. We begin to lose our language, begin to lose our history. Speaker 9: 34:47 Losing history is something this tight knit community faces. Again, this time as a side effect of the pandemic Edmonds, a celebrated gourd dancer sits beneath a colorful mural created of his image and traditional regalia, a reminder of the pre pandemic days of singing, dancing, and socializing at Powell. Speaker 12: 35:06 And that's, uh, how we stayed together as Indian people, we don't have a community like the African-Americans do the Hispanics Asians. You know, they all have their little communities where they live and there's don't have that. We, um, we're scattered all over San Diego. Speaker 9: 35:25 Well, social media has helped to keep the community connected with traditions. The pandemic still impedes the conveying of important generational knowledge. Ruben Leyva says some objects and ceremonies too private or sacred to be photographed, filmed or shared online. We don't have a tremendous documented, written explanation of our customs and culture. Those are delivered in have been, uh, since time and Memorial, verbally and in person, and like all challenges of the past that the urban native community has endured and overcome during this pandemic. It's the time spent apart that hurts the most [inaudible] Oh, KPBS news. Speaker 1: 36:17 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kevin. Speaker 9: 36:31 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 36:31 The music of love of family, of happiness and of sadness. And now it's the music that seems to have survived against the odds from the struggles of the pandemic. San Diego's mariachi bands have endured a year of canceled concerts and closed venues a year of playing too few weddings and too many funerals a year of searching for work and risking illness to play. Now, as people cautiously begin gathering again, mariachi bands are regrouping and bringing back the music joining me is reporter Andrea Lopez via Fanya who profiled the struggles of San Diego's mariachi bands. And Andrea, welcome to the program. Speaker 3: 37:12 Thank you for having me. You Speaker 1: 37:14 Begin your report by reminding us why mariachi music has such an important place for so many in the Latino community. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 3: 37:24 Yeah, so, um, it's kind of interesting in writing this. I was speaking with my editor and she was like, well, tell me when you hear mariachi music, you know, what, what do you think? And, um, honestly it, whenever I hear mariachi music, it reminds me of this moment when I used to live in Mexico and we were in this Plaza and there was all these mariachi bands. And anytime I hear the music, it just takes me to that memory of being with my grandparents there. So a lot of people, um, you know, mariachi music just brings this sense of home. Um, the sense of the country that they came from and reminds them of, of weddings, of maybe singing along to this music when you're drinking tequila with your friends and, um, having, having fun at a quinceanera or family gathering, it's just, um, it's just wholesome music that brings a lot of people together. Speaker 1: 38:14 And the music's popularity has blossomed way outside of the Mexican American community. Hasn't it? Speaker 3: 38:20 Oh yeah. I, I, I spoke with a professor from, uh, USD who he organizes these mariachi conferences here in San Diego, but, um, he also takes students around the country and around the world, uh, to listen to other Maniaci musicians and was telling me there was a Maniaci group in Japan that they met on one of their travels. So it's just, it's a wonderful to see how far the music has gone. Now. Speaker 1: 38:45 The past year has been very tough for the musicians themselves. Tell us how did San Diego's mariachi musicians make a living before the pandemic and what did they face when things began to shut down, Speaker 3: 38:57 You'll have big groups with 12 musicians, but then you'll have smaller ones with maybe six or five. Um, some of the bigger groups, you know, they, they were booking conferences, um, corporate parties, large weddings, they were playing at Plaza. So they have these big events where they would thrive off the gatherings, which obviously weren't happening because of COVID. And then you had, um, the smaller money at you bands, which might do family parties, you know, gatherings at home, um, among family members or, um, maybe also a wedding or a birthday party. So they were thriving off these gatherings, which obviously we couldn't do because of COVID. Speaker 1: 39:36 So, uh, they were not eligible for unemployment insurance because they're, uh, they're contractors, right. Uh, so how did they survive? Speaker 3: 39:45 Um, some of the ones I spoke to, you know, uh, they had members who just decided we're going to find different jobs altogether. So, um, they started working like Lyft and Uber. Some of them started working at grocery stores. Um, I spoke to a mariachi player who, um, a mariachi musician who told me that some of his players were actually from the Quanta, so they couldn't cross over. Um, so he has band fell apart. So, um, he's just been playing by himself and finding other mariachi musicians who will want to play with them if he wants to book any events. But yeah, a lot of people had to transition to different kinds of jobs. Speaker 1: 40:23 And unfortunately, a lot of the musicians found a lot of work at funerals. Speaker 3: 40:29 Yeah. And that's such the interesting story. One of the mariachi bands that I profiled in my story, um, you know, I asked her like how what's been happening, how has this pandemic affected you? And she was like, it's really weird to say, but we've never been busier. And it's because of these funerals. She said that before COVID, maybe they were booked for, um, a funeral once a week, and now they're doing much more, maybe three to four funerals a week. And, um, although she doesn't always ask the families, if it's COVID related sometimes just kind of speaking to family members, they'll, they'll tell her, you know, Oh, my mom was in perfect health. So, um, so yeah, they, a lot of these mariachi bands have been playing at COVID funerals and, um, it it's a sad time, but it's actually really interesting. And just to show you the power of money out to music, because people aren't requesting, you know, there's traditional sad songs. Um, and then there's funeral songs that many Archie bands play, but people are requesting like [inaudible] or, uh, in mariachi local, or these really cheerful songs that you hear at parties. Um, because maybe that's the song that their loved member or their loved one, like to listen to, it Speaker 1: 41:38 Turned out to be risky, to plays in closed settings during the pandemic. Wasn't it? I mean, some mariachis died. Yeah. Speaker 3: 41:46 Yeah. Um, and I wasn't able to find anyone, you know, who it happened to here in San Diego, but I, I did read up a copy of mariachi musicians who passed away in LA because some of these musicians, maybe they couldn't transition to other work like other musicians could and they had to keep playing. So, um, you know, families are still having gatherings and, uh, sadly they're not always, um, staying safe, maybe they're having small gatherings in our home, but the musicians are still exposing themselves to, um, you know, to being in contact with, with other people. So somebody actually players have passed away. Um, I know a couple of famous mariachi musicians have also passed away from COVID, Speaker 1: 42:31 But now things are slowly opening up. Are the mariachis getting more work? Speaker 3: 42:36 Yeah, they are. And like I said, the things are, is things are picking up, right? Um, they're having maybe a quinceanera, but everyone in the family they're wearing face masks. Um, so as people are getting more comfortable, more people are getting vaccinated. Um, you know, restaurants are opening up again. These musicians are playing again. And of course, a lot of them wear face masks when they're performing. And it'll just be like the trumpet player who takes the mask off while they're performing. Speaker 1: 43:03 Now you mentioned there's a big virtual mariachi conference coming up this Friday, hosted by USD. Tell us more about that. Yeah. Speaker 3: 43:11 So this conference is wonderful. It, uh, brings a lot of professional musicians from all around the world, um, specifically from, from Mexico, from heli school. Uh, and it connects them with young students who maybe want to be professional mariachi musicians when they grow up and they can learn different kinds of technique and traditionally this conference, um, it, it, you have to pay to attend the conference at USD, but this year, because it's virtual, it will be free. So it's on March 12th. Speaker 1: 43:39 Thank you so much. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune reporter Andrea Lopez via Fanya. Thanks a lot. Speaker 3: 43:45 Thank you. [inaudible].

Sweetwater Union High in the South Bay voted on a school reopening plan Monday night while Poway Unified and others will have to hold off on plans to bring back high schoolers. Plus, a day in the life of a teacher in Oakland, California and how she deals with remote teaching during the pandemic. And, voting began Monday in the special election to fill the 79th Assembly District seat vacated by Shirley Weber when she became secretary of state. Gov. Newsom’s popularity has fallen significantly after reaching record highs at the start of the pandemic. He’s likely to face a recall election later this year. Then, how the San Diego American Indian Health Center is working to keep its urban indigenous community healthy in body, mind and spirit amid the challenges posed by COVID-19. Finally, the sound of mariachi was synonymous with celebrations prior to the pandemic. Now, San Diego's mariachi bands have had to adapt and change their business models to survive.