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San Diego returns to school

 August 18, 2023 at 12:15 PM PDT

S1: This week on Kpbs Roundtable. Many districts across San Diego are starting their new Year. The push to close the learning gap brought on by the pandemic.

S2: All told , this is a steep hole to climb out of.

S1: We'll also hear how administrators are trying to reduce absenteeism with a different type of school.

S3: Community schools are campuses that offer on site wraparound services.

S1: Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. Welcome to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. School is back in session. Many districts across San Diego started their new year this week , and the state's second largest district that San Diego Unified is welcoming students. Back on Monday , there's a push to close the learning gap brought on by the pandemic. And a new type of school is at the forefront of that. And we have three local education reporters here this week to discuss why this academic year is so key for the future. Kpbs MJ Perez is here with us , along with I new sources Andrea Figueroa Briceno and voice of San Diego's Jacob Mcwhinney is here. We're so glad that you're all able to join us for this discussion. And Jacob will start with you. You know , school closures due to the pandemic , those are a thing of the past , but the impacts are still being felt , especially when it comes to things like learning.

S2: And you're right , the pandemic and years of online learning had a significant impact on academic outcomes from levels of chronic absenteeism to student performance metrics. It just rocked education. All told , this is a steep hole to climb out of , and we won't really know how successful school districts and individual schools have been in combating these worrying trends. Until new metrics from this most recent school year come out in the following months.

S1: And we're talking about testing scores there that have been dropping. Exactly.

S2: Exactly. Yeah.

S1: And MG We know that you were over in a school with Poway Unified this week. They actually began their new year. You spoke with one of their principals who says that they're committed to another comeback year.

S4: Poway , by the way , is the third largest school district in San Diego County. They have about 35,000 students. And like every other district , they have survived Covid to this point. And to be clear , obviously , Covid is still out there. But what the principal the point she was trying to make is that they're trying to move on from Covid. And what that means is putting an extra emphasis on academics. As we know , students suffered learning loss. And in the Poway district , their theme is the magic in you. And they believe that that magic is to get students connected again to the routine of studying , connected again to the routine of assessments in hopes that they can get back to the academic work , which obviously is a priority when you're going to school.


S3: Last year , San Diego Unified , the first community cohort of community schools , opened last year. So this upcoming year , sometime this year , we'll see how successful these schools were in addressing the chronic absenteeism rates that school officials were so hopeful that these community schools could address.


S2: But another big thing and what I think is even more important than test scores is this chronic absenteeism , what I would call just a literal crisis , you know , to to break that down. Chronic absenteeism is is when a kid misses at least 10% of days in a school year. And the rate of chronic absenteeism in San Diego County basically tripled from around 11% before the pandemic to around 30% after it , which is , again , I mean , a shocking level of chronic absenteeism. It's it's unprecedented. It's a four alarm fire. It's all of the bad things that that you can imagine. And again , I mean , this is more important to me than test scores because regardless of what sort of academic interventions you implement in the classroom , kids just literally can't learn if they're not in that classroom.

S1: Yeah , I think you had that line in there. It's simple. If a kid isn't in school , they can't learn. And we know that districts are taking this seriously and some of them like Oceanside Unified. I know you were recently with them , sort of like making house calls out there to make sure families have what they need.

S4: Our families , each with their own story of why things are happening in their family. So what Oceanside decided to do is be proactive , and they have sent out a team of 20 counselors , support staff. There's a social worker that is actually making house calls , and they are giving some incentive by showing up with backpacks full of school supplies. So the idea is to connect with the family and find out why. What they discovered is once a kid misses a day or two or. Week or three weeks. They get lost in the shuffle and feel like it's too late to come back. So they kind of want to demystify that. And and any fear that the family might be feeling. They want a one on one connection to say , hey , it's okay. We understand that your student was out. We want to give them the support they need to come back. Here's a backpack as an incentive , as I said , and generally speaking , it seems to be working. Families want to be heard. And the best way to do that is if you show up at their doorstep and say , Hey , I'm here to answer your questions and to help you get past this.


S4: And so school districts are forced to be creative in their ways of trying to address the problem. It's happening in San Diego Unified as well. These specific efforts to reach out directly to a family and find out what's going on and try to get them back in the classroom on a regular basis.

S1: And Andrea , what about this issue of addressing absenteeism in schools ? Like do we know if any progress is being made there or if anything might change this academic year ? Yeah.


S3: Like I mentioned earlier , the schools that were in San Diego Unified's first cohort of community schools , within the coming months , we should be seeing whether they were successful in addressing chronic absenteeism. Board member Sarah Bezos had said that they were going to use last year as a baseline , so we should be able to see whether they made progress or not.

S1: And Jacob , it sounds like that there are some disparities in the chronic absenteeism. I think in one of your stories , you said that one school in La Jolla had a 13% rate , but a school in Logan Heights had 76% of students falling into this category. I mean , do we know why that is or what some of the factors are that that sort of play into this ? Yeah.

S2: Yeah , that's that's right. And I think it's a really interesting statistic because it highlights something that I don't think would be controversial to say , which is that education is not equal. Poverty correlates with with not only academic performances like test scores , but also with factors like chronic absenteeism. So when big shakeups happen in education , like , I don't know , a global pandemic , the kids in schools who are already struggling often bear the brunt of that burden. The case of Rodriguez Elementary and Logan Heights and Bird Rock Elementary in La Jolla that you just mentioned is a good example of this. Both schools , like the county as a whole , saw their rates of chronic absenteeism triple , but because their rates were so different to begin with , it means that they ended up at very different places. So Rodriguez's chronic absenteeism was 24% before the pandemic and has tripled to 76% , while bird rocks started at 4% and tripled to 13%. The reasons their rates were so different in the first place , maybe due to a number of reasons the community Rodriguez serves is poor , so parents may be working jobs that leave them unable to monitor it , whether or not their kids are going to school or they may have more transportation barriers. This is partly why figuring out the why of why these kids are missing so much School is so important because if you don't know the why , implementing the correct interventions to help them get back to school is is really difficult.

S1: And I think also in one of your stories , you were saying that kids that are in elementary school. Right. Are like the most impacted by this.

S2: You know , kids in lower grades have some of the highest levels of chronic absenteeism and it's a little bit difficult to figure out why. But some experts told me that it may just be because at that age , whether it's kindergarten or first grade , they haven't yet sort of adapted to the routine of going to school every day. Or maybe their parents just don't view getting their kindergartner to school every day as important as maybe an 11th or 12th grader when they're about to potentially head off to college. But regardless of the reason , it's really vital to drive down those levels of chronic absenteeism in early grades , because at that age , kids are building the knowledge base that they're going to be using the whole rest of their academic career and falling behind then could lead to really serious consequences further down the line. If they don't , say , get to second or third grade and they don't know how to read that , that is something that is really , really difficult to catch up.

S1: And then we also have this subset of the population where we're talking about unhoused students in our county. And Andrea , you cited a study that said that there was over 11,000 students that were homeless throughout San Diego County , and that was in the 2122 school year. San Diego Unified has been considering using like district property to help provide for those in need. Can you sort of break that down for us or like what this situation is ? I mean , that number sounds extremely high.

S3: That's right. And of those 11,000 students , 8500 were San Diego Unified Students. I spoke with Richard Barrera , board member of San Diego Unified in June , and he had told me that the district was looking into partnerships with the city and local organizations to be able to provide families with short term and long term housing solutions. And even though the proposal wasn't up for a vote then yet , Barrera was hopeful that they would be able to provide safe parking by the summer. But I haven't seen an update on that yet.

S1: And some of that involves like the city council , right , or something.

S3: The city of San Diego , correct ? Yeah.


S4: I think the point we're all discuss is that each situation is different and is unique. And that's why all of these school districts are really trying to come up with strategies to have that one on one connection.

S1: Yeah.

S2: Yeah. You know , I think the district is pretty hopeful that it will at some point be able to provide , as as Andrea said , this this short and potentially long term housing. And I will say that some of the options they're looking into are pretty interesting and innovative. You know , they recently rebuilt the old Central elementary campus and co-located it with with Wilson Middle. So they now have this empty site. You know , I spoke to Richard Pereira as well , and he said that not only are they hoping to create safe parking spots , but also to potentially use that vacant school to house kids and families inside. And while this is a super innovative and interesting idea , city council moves slow , These things move very , very slow. And I wouldn't expect to see any movement on this for a while , unfortunately.

S1: And sticking with San Diego Unified here. MG You actually spoke with their superintendent this week , and one thing he emphasized was the importance of in-person learning.

S4: And what happened was at the height of it , I think there were about 1700 students that were enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy. And towards the end of the school year last year in May , all of a sudden there was an email saying the virtual academy will end for both middle and high schoolers. That caught a lot of people by surprise. When I talked with the school district , Maureen McGee , the communications director in particular , her point was not to abandon these kids and say , no , we're not going to support you , but instead to pass it to their local school campus in hopes that they could work on some kind of program where they could either do hybrid or they could continue in a virtual classroom type setting. And so that's really what we're figuring out now. Now , it did not end for elementary school , but for the middle school and the high schoolers. It did come as a surprise to many parents. And I think that's why there was resistance to it. So we will see this fall how that all works out for those students.

S1: Coming up on Roundtable , how a different type of.

S6: School is addressing the learning gap and chronic absenteeism. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. We're talking about students across San Diego County returning for a brand new school year. With us is Kpbs Perez , voice of San Diego's Jacob Mcwhinney. And I knew sources Andrea Figueroa , Briceno. Andrea , you know , there is a new way schools are trying to address things like the learning gap and chronic absenteeism. It's something called community schools. What is a community school ? And I think the governor recently said he wants 1 in 4 of all schools to turn into one. Why this push now ? Yes.

S3: So community schools are campuses that offer on site wraparound services. Now , the services offered can differ from site to site depending on the community's need. For example , at Hoover High in City Heights , it has a medical and a dental clinic on campus , and its principal , Tracy Makings , told me that most services offered are free of charge. According to research , these schools have a positive effect on graduation rates. Academic progress , attendance and a reduction in disciplinary issues. And Governor Gavin Newsom sees it as a way to combat the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic.

S1: And I know MG and Jacob , you guys have both written about these community schools. And I think you mentioned to me that this was like the buzz in education right now.

S4: I did an interview with Superintendent Lamont Jackson this week and we talked about that part of the equation to becoming a community school is to apply for a state grant. And there are a lot of schools who are in the application process , but the state provides money in order to help support partnerships. But ultimately , it's up to the school to seek out those partnerships , which , as was mentioned before , could be medical , could be mental health services , could be just something fun , an art , you know , art program or in cases in other districts like Chula Vista Elementary and Sweetwater , they're adding sports programs that had not been there before. In the case of San Diego Unified , the state gave them $40 million in grant money to pay for more community schools , and they're doubling the amount this fall. They went from there going from 5 to 15 community school campuses with other schools in the application process to become that designated program.

S1: And some of those things sound like things that schools are already doing , but maybe they're increasing some of those efforts. I don't know.


S2: Mean , I think I think community schools are a super interesting concept and they're actually not new. The concept first emerged around 100 years ago and they're also not new to San Diego County. I actually wrote a piece last year about how Chula Vista Elementary had set up a community school or some community schools all the way back in the 70s. And as MG mentioned , the district is is now reviving its long dormant community schools program. And , you know , this concept does make a degree of intuitive sense. Schools are where the kids are and kids are often the center of of communities. But the key to their success , like with most things , is implementation. The community schools model the accepted model that the state has gone with and that San Diego Unified has mimicked is built around these four pillars. And the four pillars are that community schools should foster engagement , engagement with community members , students and families in decision making. They should turn into neighborhood hubs. They should integrate student supports like the social and mental health services that that Andrea mentioned , that they address barriers to success that exist outside of the school and that they offer additional academic instruction , whether that be staying open later or expanded summer school. But one of the keys to to these four pillars is that community schools really need to specifically engage their community to ensure that they address to ensure that they address the needs of the community that that school serves. Right. So if all community schools in the district look the same , if they all offer the same services , then a district isn't doing community schools right. Every community school should look different. If it's really engaging the community and addressing the specific needs that those communities have.

S1: MG Go ahead.

S4: Along that line , what Jacob was saying , you have to have buy in from the parents. You have to have buy in from the community because otherwise it doesn't work. Yes , you can have state money and try to fund things , but without the parents participating and in some cases , some schools that I visited , they are there every day volunteering and doing things for the program so that it will flourish. And and I agree. I mean , I think without that , you cannot have. To successful community school.

S1: And I think both of you mentioned that parents are like a key part of this. Was any of this revival being done in part to some of the frustrations that parents have had , some parents , I should say , with their school boards and , you know , trying to take a more active role in their kids education. And if anybody anybody who wants to jump in can can take this.

S4: Well , let me say , I think there were a lot of upset parents with Covid about a lot of things. And so , yes , I think it did dovetail into , hey , you know , I'm concerned about what my child is experiencing at school. And so , yes , I think it didn't necessarily just be it wasn't just negative. I think maybe it was impetus to say , hey , we it's time to revisit this model. It's time to address the entire child , not just when my student is in class for 6 or 7 hours a day. What about the rest of life , which is the majority of of the time ? You know , they're with families and if they're not being supported there , then they can't show up for their best learning in the classroom.


S3: Now , when I spoke with Principal Tracy making , she was saying that , you know , they want to reach out to families to understand maybe what potential barriers they may be facing that is preventing their child from attending school. But they also want to be able to connect with families to let them know about the services that they can offer them.

S1: And also , Jacob , do we know if this like community school model , if it works better as a weird way , but like , you know , whether that's higher test scores or reduce absenteeism ? Yeah.

S2: So I think that the majority of research does show promise with the community schools model. I mean , an engaged student as a student that is more likely to succeed. And as MG said and as I mentioned earlier , you know , kids come to school with a variety of existing socioeconomic pressures. They don't walk into school and all of a sudden become a new person. Right ? They take their outside environment into schools with them. And so being able to address some of these outside factors is something that that makes it would make sense that it would help for kids who may be more disadvantaged than others. I just I want to come back to this implementation aspect. I think it's going to be really , really important to pay attention to to how San Diego unified in particular , that's the district that I kind of focus on the most , how San Diego Unified in particular does with implementation. I think that the district it's it's as you mentioned earlier , the second largest district in California. It's a huge district with over 100,000 , 100,000 students. And it hasn't always had the best track record of implementing things , whether it's restorative justice or standards based grading or any number of things. And so it'll be behooved on not only community members , but journalists like us to ensure that the district is is holding up its end in the bargain with community schools.

S1: Well , and along those lines , you know , we know that there's a shortfall for San Diego Unified. Jacob , I think you said when I say shortfall , I mean a budget shortfall. And I think , Jacob , you've wrote that it's approaching like $200 million in the upcoming years.

S2: What is on the chopping block is not clear. And to be clear , you know , the the budget deficit isn't coming this school year. It'll start in the 24 , 25 school year at around 129 ish million dollars. And during the 2526 school year , it's projected to be around $182 Million. And those are those are big , big numbers. So we know the district is going to have to cut things. We just don't know what will be on the chopping block. Now , luckily for community schools and for proponents of the model , much of the funding for them is coming from state money that is earmarked for this purpose. And so it doesn't seem to me that that there is much of a chance that community schools will be the things that that end up on the cutting room floor.

S1: MG Go. Ahead.

S4: Ahead. In my interview with Dr. Jackson this week , I asked him that question. And what he pointed out is we have to remember there has been a lot of Covid funding that came from the federal government that's ending. And so that is part of the reason that there is a shortfall. And in my one on one interview with him , he told me there are no decisions right now. We're aware of it , and we're going to look to see how we will deal with this going forward. But I think it's important to note that part of the Covid crisis included Covid funding. That helped a lot , and now that's ending and going away. So it's leaving the district with the okay , what are we going to do from here ? What did we learn ? What can we continue with different funding. Or in a community school model. And yes , Jacob is right. It's it's about the state funding and also about building those partnerships from the outside , in some cases , private business.

S1: We know all that's going to cost additional funding there. But in terms of addressing learning loss , community schools , sounds like it's this a refreshed way to to try to do this. But there's also , you know , some people might be listening to this and saying some are like , what do you mean summer break ? Like my kids in school right now and we're talking about year round schools.

S4: It was the traditional school year. But now that I've been reporting on education , obviously I've been exposed to more districts that do that , in particular Sweetwater and I was there for their opening day of school , which was July 19th. We're in the middle of summer. Wait a minute. What ? It's time to go back to school. And yes , it is. I talked with the principal of Montgomery High School , a gentleman named Luis Stein. And what he told me was , yes , on face value , it sounds not attractive , but when you think about it , they basically take a break every 9 to 10 weeks. And what he pointed out was it's about at that point that you start to feel burnout. So what better opportunity to , you know , revitalize and and take a break. And so they do but they are , you know , depending on the district , of course they take a month at the holidays. And , you know , there there are some traditional break times. But for the most part , that's that's the argument. That's the benefit that kids can take a break and hopefully come back and do even better in that kind of a year round model.

S1: Andrea or Jacob , do you guys have anything you want to add about year round schooling ? I mean , Sweetwater is no small district , but anything if you guys want to jump in.

S2: Well , I think that one of the things that districts are trying to navigate is exactly how do you help kids make up for the for the lost time for the learning loss that they they experienced over the pandemic. And I've spoken to some experts who say you just can't do that in a normal school day. So year round school , summer school , extended learning opportunities , these things can all potentially play a role in helping kids gain the ground that they lost during the pandemic.

S1: And we know that the governor of California , Jacob , we're talking to you here. He's working to bring access to after school programs for everyone. It's something he says he wants to do. And I think you wrote that this can be life changing for families. It sounds like San Diego Unified has already implemented some of this , but it sounds like there's also a really long wait list.

S2: San Diego Unified still has a significant wait list , but it's also shrunk significantly. So when I first started reporting on this back in November , there were more than 4600 families on that wait list. By March , that dropped to around 33,100. And as of last month , the wait list has shrunk to around 1045. Now , that's not nothing. That's a significant drop in in the wait list That that makes a huge difference for a lot of families. I spoke to one parent , Jared Goossens. He spent about a year just in this horrible waitlist limbo. He is a single father of a San Diego unified student and had to give up a job , lost another job because he was not able to work full time while having to drop his kid off at school , pick his kid up in the afternoon. I mean , these are this is the reality for for many working families. It's just it's a difficult situation. And so expanding that access to after school care is something that can make a huge , huge difference for a lot of working families and especially those who who may be on the edge. You know , for him , luckily , he didn't lose his apartment despite the fact that that was something that that he worried about. Eventually he got off that waitlist and was able to take a job as a postal worker for the United States Postal Service , a job that he is very excited to have because you've used it as one that will allow him to retire and not one that will leave him , you know , in dire straits later in his life. So the district has said that they are continuing to try to slash that waitlist. Their goal is to eliminate it altogether. We will see. I will be paying attention to that. One of the big problems that they're having is finding enough staff to fill these positions because as you said , the state has now added more funding to these after school care programs. But staffing continues to be an issue across all all sectors of education.

S1: In talking about expansion , not to like kind of jump. Brown here too much. But before we get to final thoughts , we're talking about the expansion of transitional kindergarten and something I've been seeing even like , you know , used to say like K through 12. Now you hear a lot t K through 12.

S4: And of course , it depends on the district , but they are all many of them , I should say , are it's so successful that they do have wait lists for the TK programs , but there's more funding on the way and they are figuring it out as they go along and what works , what doesn't work. But it's a great start , as the saying goes. Get them while they're young. And in this case it's four years old. It's like an.


S4: But really , the idea behind it is to prepare the student to be ready for kindergarten because I don't know if you remember being in kindergarten , but , you know , it can be overwhelming like , Oh , wait a minute , where did all these people come from ? And you know , what do you mean ? You know , I have to have my lunch at this time and that kind of stuff. So it sets them up for success , as they like to say. And and it is very popular.

S1: So we've definitely covered a lot here. But before we go , we want to hear from everyone. What are you going to be watching for in the weeks and months ahead here ? I mean , you know , school's just starting not quite yet for San Diego Unified , but what's on your radar ahead ? And Andrea , we can start with you.

S3: Well , even though the state did make a seven year commitment to fund these community schools , San Diego Unified has yet to say how it will fund these community schools after that seven years. So it'll be important to see what kind of plan they plan on drawing up. There's going to be more than 10 million projected for the 20 2627 school year in terms of cost for these community schools. So they should be developing a plan within the third year from the launch of the community school. So we'll be seeing that.



S2: Bit of of an attention problem. So my my attention is going to be all over the place. But I'll just choose a couple interconnected things. I'm really interested to see how San Diego Unified adjusts its universal transitional kindergarten program. It has been popular , but at the same time , some educators and parents have have flagged problems with it , whether it's curriculum or staffing. You know , this is a brand new grade and obviously it's difficult to create a brand new grade out of whole cloth. But San Diego Unified also made the interesting decision to jump two feet into this program. Right. The state's laid out this this phased in start to universal transitional kindergarten , where over a period of five years , I believe it's five years , districts could start to phase in younger and younger kids up to four each year. Right. But San Diego Unified decided to just jump in and offer transitional kindergarten to all four , all four year old kids in the district. It did so partly in hopes to , as you know , MG said , to get kids into the district early in hopes that they would stick around. Now , this connects to the second thing that I'm going to be paying attention to , which is enrollment. Public school enrollment has been dropping for a long time. It's this trend that really , really worries public school officials because , again , you know , partially funding is based on enrollment. Now , district officials at San Diego Unified have hoped that its universal transitional kindergarten program would help offset some of that enrollment decline. It sort of did , but not really. You know , the influx of four year olds sort of just served to hide that that widespread enrollment decline across all grades was still happening. So these are two of the things that I'm going to be paying attention to , whether or not this enrollment decline that really sped up over the pandemic continues and whether San Diego Unified can iron out all of the wrinkles in its current universal transitional kindergarten program.

S1: And you have the final word.

S4: So community schools for sure. It will be interesting to see how they develop and what districts come up with what. The other thing I want to mention is , let's not forget San Diego Unified teachers negotiated a historic contract with a 15% raise over two years. I want to see what that does to the relationship between the teachers union and also administration and if trust has been built there. The last thing I want to watch this is a personal favorite of mine arts funding. Let not let us not forget that the voters voted to require mandatory funding for arts in all schools. I think it's about $1 billion that is supposed to be guaranteed. I'm excited to see how school district. Use that money and also to make sure it gets spent the way it's supposed to.

S1: We'll have to keep an eye out for that. I think the governor also said that he wants to put more money toward that as well. But we're going to have to end our discussion there. I've been speaking with Kpbs , MKG Perez. I knew sources Andrea Figueroa Briceno and voice of San Diego's Jacob Mcwhinney. And everyone , thanks so much for being here.

S3: Thanks for having us.

S2: Yeah , thanks for having me.

S6: Coming up , Other San Diego stories were following in the roundup. That's just ahead. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. It's now time for the round Table roundup where we take a look at some other stories happening around San Diego. Producer Andrew Bracken is back from vacation. Andrew , what's up ? Hey , Matt. Good to be back. Where were you at ? Took a little trip , you know , before the school year , starting next week.

S8: So we went up to the Sierra Nevada mountains. Very cool. Very cool.

S1: I hope you're paying attention to some news. We're glad to have you here again.

S8: And it looks like we're heading towards a November runoff. San Diego City Council member Monica Montgomery Steppe is well ahead with over 40% of the vote right now. And the second place finish looks like it's going to be Republican Amy Reichert. Janessa Goldbach just conceded on Thursday. So it looks like there's some ballots remaining to be counted , but it's looking like a November runoffs in the works.

S1: And I know that these are technically nonpartisan , but this is going to be a Democratic candidate versus a Republican. And I think there's yeah , there's two Democrats currently on the board and two Republicans. So this could have big implications for the board , even though I think this district is more heavily Democratic.

S8: Yeah , it's a Democratic district , but we'll have to see what the final results say. But it's pointing to that Republican Democrat race.

S1: And we know that that District four , that was San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's seat. He was accused of sexual assault and he ended up resigning from the board. And he denies those allegations. But that's still all playing out in a civil case. But it looks like basically voters who are in that district , they're going to be they're going to be getting ballots again in November.

S8: Yeah , and it will be interesting. I mean , Monica Montgomery Stepp has been in the city council for several years. So if she were to say to win the seat in November , then it would also open up a new special election for the seat in the city council. So there potential some political dominoes , But we have a ways to go still.

S1: Still a ways to go. So expect more mailers if you're living in those districts. All right.

S8: There's some dispute in terms of , you know , for a tax , it needs two thirds voter approval , but citizens initiatives actually only require a simple majority. So there's some legal wranglings going on about what constitutes a tax measure , what constitutes a citizen's initiative. And it kind of reminds me of some of the other measures we voted on in recent years. I remember voting on the sports arena height limit more than once because of. Yeah. Oh , was it ? Yeah , yeah. Because of , you know , a legal fight in that and they had to do it a different way. So it's just a lot of and this doesn't sound like it's been decided so it's more kind of in the courts and we'll see what comes of it.

S1: Yeah , it's held up in the courts. I think for a long time people thought that you had to get two thirds vote even for a citizens initiative. But the courts are saying , no , no , no , a simple majority will work. But now I think it's being held up over whether or not it truly is a citizens initiative , because someone with the city might have been involved in this. But that's all going to get hashed out in court. The other thing I'll remember , too is there's been a lot of measures. CS Obviously one of them was a Chargers to build them a new stadium and we know obviously that one did not pass too. So a lot , a lot of history with measures see here. But we knew that that was something that was very big. We saw a lot of city officials pushing for that , not only to expand the convention center. You hear about Comic-Con maybe saying , hey , we might look elsewhere if we can't find space , and then obviously finding homeless services and going to road repairs. And I remember they were saying that , hey , look , it's not you guys that are paying for it. It's going to be all the tourists that are coming and staying in our hotels. So something definitely to keep an eye on.

S8: Gary Robbins from the Union Tribune. He published a piece , you know , talking about some of the housing struggles for students at UC San Diego. And this is familiar to many because they went through the same thing last year. But some 2300 UC San Diego students are still looking for housing this year. The university has has more student housing coming , but they fell behind schedule , so they're not enough units available yet. So the university is looking , looking at a local hotel to help kind of bridge that gap. But it's just another , you know , example. We talk about it often on roundtable of the housing shortage and the housing crisis. And it's just another example , you know , at our local universities , too.

S1: And I imagine that housing up by UCSD is not , you know , super cheap being up there in La Jolla , you're right by the water. And I mean , I remember when I went to San Diego State , I thought housing was expensive. Then I saw they just opened up a development right down the street. It was like $2,600 for a one bedroom. Department. So we know that more units are needed. But I think that's an interesting step in terms of looking at a hotel to help fill the need. Yeah.

S8: Yeah. And again , they are building more housing for students. So hopefully this you know , we won't be going through this next school.

S1: Year , something that's obviously on a lot of people's minds. All right.

S8: Planned Parenthood office had a fire and we still don't know the cause of it. But El Centro and the area around it , it's pretty , you know , underserved. Not a lot of , you know , medical options there. They're still trying to figure out the cause of the fire.

S1: And that's we're talking about the El Centro Planned Parenthood office. They obviously do like a lot of other things , like cancer screenings and screenings for STIs and even treatment for STIs as well , too. But , you know , Planned Parenthood officials told me that they're going to be back. They're going to rebuild. They don't know if that's going to take six months , if that's going to take a year. I know that they've been working to get people to some other locations in the meantime , like in San Diego or up in like Coachella Valley that they have because they say people can't wait who are in these situations and , you know , pushing it another week or something just really isn't an option. But something interesting about that clinic there and Imperial is like up to 50% of their patients are coming from out of state. So states that that have more restrictive reproductive rights and Mexico too I mean up to 50% coming from south of the border as well as these other states. So definitely like a very , you know , key asset for a lot of people in that area. We'll see how long it takes him to come back. All right.

S8: Kpbs North County reporter Tania Thorn did a story on a local MMA fighter , Elimelech McFarland , who has now raised $2 million for Maui residents and also collected more supplies than than she could handle. But it was just a nice story of of someone , you know from Hawaii that's now in San Diego that really took action to help the people suffering there after these , you know.

S1: Devastating wildfires. I think that's a great story. And it just shows that , you know , during these tough times , people come together. You know , seeing some of the video footage , the aerial footage of what's happening in Maui , just devastating for that community. And , you know , things like this are important because they're going to need a lot of help to get back up on their feet.

S8: And sadly , you know , it is a reminder for us in San Diego , too , as we near fire season. I think you did a fire prep story earlier this week as well. We're seeing some wildfires , unfortunately , in San Diego County this week.

S1: The two big takeaways I got from that from Cal Fire , have a plan , make sure everybody's on the same page before something like this happens. Practice the plan , and then have some type of emergency kit that can last for up to 72 hours , like with food and water should you need it. All right.

S8: Oh , there are two species of tarantulas. And yeah , this is their their mating season , August and September. So you might see more encounters in certain parts of East County and other parts of the county that have tarantulas.

S1: Yeah , I saw Cbs8 had a story about this. They said literally , you know , we're talking thousands of tarantulas could be out in areas like El Cajon , Ramona and Poway. That is just and they say it's the California black tarantula and the San Diego bronze tarantula. Luckily , at my house in Mission Valley , I have never seen a tarantula there. I don't know. That'd be pretty scary. Andrew Bracken , thanks so much for being here on the roundup.

S8: Thank you , Matt.

S1: That's going to do it for roundtable this week. We're so glad you were able to join us. If you have any thoughts on today's show , leave us a voicemail. (619) 452-0228. You can also email us roundtable at If you missed any part of our show , check out the Kpbs Roundtable podcast. Our show airs at noon on Fridays on Kpbs and again on Sunday at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken , and Rebecca Chacon is our technical producer. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us. Have a great weekend.

Lisa Maguire, principal at Garden Road Elementary School, gives a student a high-five on the first day of school in the Poway Unified District, Poway, Calif., August 16, 2023.
M.G. Perez
Lisa Maguire, principal at Garden Road Elementary School, gives a student a high-five on the first day of school in the Poway Unified District, Poway, Calif., August 16, 2023.

Many San Diego County school districts returned to the classroom this week, and San Diego Unified School District, the second largest district in the state, starts classes on Monday. The new year arrives as schools push to close the learning gap brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and make an investment in community schools.


Andrea Figueroa Briseño, education reporter, inewsource

Jakob McWhinney, education reporter, Voice of San Diego

MG Perez, education reporter, KPBS News