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Transitional kindergarten rollout

 December 14, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, December 14th.

One year in, we look at how the rollout of Transitional Kindergarten is going.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

COVID hospitalizations in the county are slightly up from Friday.

According to the state, more than 370 people are hospitalized.

That’s a little higher than this time last year, and has been slowly increasing.

Last winter, COVID hospitalizations in San Diego peaked at around 13-hundred.

Dr. William Tseng is Kaiser San Diego’s assistant area medical director.

“This is very early, we still haven’t hit Christmas yet we haven’t hit new year yet. So we’re on the upslope of the hill, not the downslope.”

Tseng says at Kaiser they are seeing increases in the flu and COVID, but it’s manageable for now.

He encourages people to stay up to date on vaccinations to reduce the risk of being hospitalized.

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Natural gas bills will be higher this month, and we’ll likely see another major increase next month.

S-D-G-AND-E officials say higher prices for gas, delivery costs and the seasonal spike in demand are fueling the increases.

They encourage people to have energy audits, wash clothes with cold water and lower the temp of hot water heaters.

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County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher won’t seek a third year as the leader of the county's governing body.

He nominated District 1 supervisor Nora Vargas to take over as chairwoman next year.

She’s currently the vice chair.

Fletcher was re-elected to a second term representing District 4 last month and will still be on the board.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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By 20-25, all California four-year-olds will be guaranteed a free spot in a new grade, called transitional kindergarten, or T-K.

It’s meant to better prepare children for kindergarten and reduce daycare costs for parents.

But KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser says it has introduced a lot of unintended consequences.

“All four year olds will get high quality instructional education by creating that new grade.” Fade down Newsom Last year Gov. Gavin Newsom trumpeted a multi-billion-dollar plan to transform early childhood learning. It would bring four-year-olds into the public school system in transitional kindergarten, or TK. But just a year into the rollout, Newsom’s plan is causing big problems in the childcare industry. Here’s why. Bring in kid sound Four year olds cost the least because they require the fewest childcare staff. So historically providers made money on four year olds but lost money on infants. But TK has upended that balance and put some childcares out of business. Fade out kid sound Experts say these impacts could have been alleviated if state leaders had talked to childcare providers first. Instead …  Alethea Arguilez First 5 Executive Director “We're flying the plane as we're building it.” Alethea Arguilez is the executive director of First 5 San Diego. That’s a nonprofit advocating for children under age 5. “There's the really positive ends of the expansion, but it’s also honoring the…real impacts in the community.” Impacts on childcare providers like Miren Algorri. Phone ringing These days her phone is constantly ringing, but all the calls are from parents asking for infant care. Miren Algorri Child Care Provider “I want to say 90 to 95% of the calls are for infants and toddlers.” But Algorri doesn’t take infants. If she did, she’d only be able to take four at a time. That’s because of state  licensing requirements. “If my ratio for infants is four and I'm not getting phone calls for children two and up, it means that I'm going to have to decrease to caring for only four children.” She’d have to let go of her assistant and charge far more per infant to stay profitable. Maybe continue sound here, or fade it out A new San Diego County YMCA survey found that more than three quarters of childcare businesses have lost children to a TK program. Many respondents said their business was suffering as a result. And providers aren’t just losing kids—they’re losing staff. That’s because in the next three years, San Diego public schools will need four times as many TK teachers. And Arguilez (ARE-gui-lez) says many of those teachers will be recruited from childcare centers. “They were already having a challenge in retaining or recruiting and retaining qualified staff, and now we see potentially more seasoned training staff, head teachers, center directors that are saying this might be a viable career path for me to go into the TK-12 system.” TK teachers working at public schools get better pay, better hours, and more vacation time than childcare workers. That’s appealing to people like Kimberly Watkinson. Kimberly Watkinson SDSU Student “For TK teachers and kindergarten teachers, obviously, it's not like the pay of a doctor or an engineer, but it's significantly better than a preschool teacher.” She’ll graduate from SDSU with an early childhood education degree next year. In the past, many like Watkinson went on to work at preschools or child care centers. But that’s rarely the case now. So says Sascha Longstreth. She’s the chair of SDSU’s Child and Family Development department. Sascha Longstreth SDSU’s Child and Family Development Chair “They can focus on experiential learning, they can focus on developing children's social emotional skills…Once children get into Kindergarten or 1st grade, where it's primarily math and literacy, these other activities take a backseat.”

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KPBS’s Claire Trageser also says that one year into the T-K program, we’re seeing that schools aren’t prepared.

The morning drop off isn’t easy for many elementary schoolers and their parents. But it was downright brutal in September for Sara LaPietra and her four-year-old son Teddy. Sara LaPietra San Diego Parent “He would lay down on the ground the second he got inside the gate.” Teddy attends McKinley Elementary, a San Diego Unified School near Balboa Park. LaPierta says she was supposed to stop at the gate and tell her son to walk by himself to class. It didn’t go well. “and I felt like I couldn't go in and do anything. But also he wasn't going to class, and so I'd just be watching him lay on the ground. I just felt it was awful.” Now, the school has changed the rules so parents can walk kids to their class. But Teddy is still struggling to adjust to many other parts of being in elementary school. “He's just been having behavioral issues that we never saw when he was in preschool, hitting kids and teachers and things like that. He was running out of the classroom the first week or two, which obviously is a big safety risk and is concerning for us and for his teachers.” Teddy is one of the many younger four-year-olds who are now attending TK. Gov Newsom and other state leaders say it’ll better prepare students for kindergarten. But many parents and experts say the schools aren’t ready for them. “You might walk into a TK classroom and you might see 75% of the time is devoted to instruction on math and literacy, and that's a red flag.” Sascha Longstreth is the chair of San Diego State Univerisity’s Child and Family Development department. “Maybe they're a little too heavy on the elementary side and they need to introduce a more developmentally appropriate practice from preschool.” State guidelines on how TK will be taught haven’t been fully implemented. That means some classrooms are not structured with the right balance of instructional and free play time. Longstreth says this is a recipe for behavioral problems. “At this age, children do need to have experiential learning. They need to have a lot of movement.” A San Diego Unified spokesperson said the needs of four-year-olds are being met. In a statement he said student schedules include purposeful play, recess, and physical movement. The district’s schools generally have 15 minutes of outdoor recess and another 20 minutes after lunch. Parents say that’s not enough. Fade out playground sound And they say the problems with TK don’t end with the school day. LaPietra’s son is having even more issues at his school’s aftercare program.“They're very quick to be like, you need to come get him, we can't handle this, he's doing this, you need to come get him. Even one day it was raining, and they were like, ‘you need to come get him, because we don't really have anything to keep him entertained.’” It is situations like this that give some parents pause. Sarah Alemany (AL-ah-mahnee’ is another San Diego Unified parent. Her daughter Valentina would be eligible for TK next year. But she’s not going. “I just don't think the facilities are built for four year olds, they're not really supposed to be just sitting in a classroom all day. They're not developmentally ready for that.” She says the schools don’t have bathrooms, or playground equipment right for four-year-olds. And they don’t have a place for them to nap. CT KPBS News

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Coming up.... A local brewery and the San Diego Airport are joining together to make beer. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

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A facility at Lawrence Livermore Labs has, for the first time, conducted a nuclear fusion event that produced a net gain of energy.

KPBS sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge talked to a local researcher about the breakthrough..

Using nuclear fusion as a source of energy has been studied and anticipated for at least 60 years. But last week Lawrence Livermore fired 192 lasers at a tiny pellet of fuel, creating nuclear fusion and producing energy. Fusion takes place when two hydrogen nuclei collide, prompted by very high heat. They fuse and give off the same energy produced by our sun. It is carbon free and leaves no long-lasting radioactive waste. George Tynan, a professor of engineering science at UC San Diego is researching fusion that uses strong magnetic fields, not lasers. He says using fusion to produce energy for our homes will require a lot more science and engineering. GEORGE TYNAN “Fusion then needs to win a place in the marketplace. It will be competing with other forms of clean generation and it needs to be developed as a cost-effective technology.” The Biden administration wants to see a fusion demonstration plant built within ten years. Tynan says that’s possible, but difficult. SOQ.

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If you want to make beer, you need grain, hops, yeast and water.

KPBS reporter Melissa Mae tells us how one local brewery is using water from a surprising source at the San Diego Airport.

MM:  Millions of passengers board their planes via jet bridges at the San Diego International Airport each year. Those bridges are cooled off by air conditioning units that produce about 100 thousand gallons of water a year. MM: That water is called “condensate…” and it used to just fall on the ground. But now it’s becoming a vital part of a beverage that San Diego is known for…Craft beer! MM: The airport and The East Village Brewing Company officially announced the release of two beers made of purified condensate. MM: Aaron Justus is the company’s owner and brewer. AJ  “It’s an incredibly clean beer. The water is superbly clean. It’s perfect for brewing and when you taste the beers you can taste how crisp and clean it is.”  MM: Both beers are now available at The East Village Brewing Company and within the next few weeks will be available in Terminal 2 at the San Diego Airport. Melissa Mae KPBS News. 

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

All California 4-year-olds will be guaranteed a free spot in transitional kindergarten by 2025, but the new grade has introduced unintended consequences. In other news, we speak to a local researcher about a nuclear fusion event that produced a net gain of energy for the first time. Plus, a local brewery is making beer with water from a surprising source at the San Diego Airport.