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By Tim Hunt

Let's get elementary students back in school

Uploaded: Jul 21, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a state decree on local school districts last Friday when he declared that any county on the state’s watch list could not re-open schools with students in classrooms.

Counties must be off the list for two weeks before local districts can consider re-opening schools. That means classes on Zoom with parents trying to fill in as teachers. That has a chance of working in middle school and high school as well as older elementary schools, but I cannot fathom a 1st grade teacher trying to teach reading to 20 kids on a Zoom call.

And it’s even worse for low-income families or families of color that speak another language at home. The last quarter of the 2019-20 school year was an educational disaster for many of those students followed by a summer likely without any organized educational activities and another nine weeks looming of the same.

Instead of executive decree, what’s needed by the governor and the state schools’ chief is a recognition of the science that Newsom loves to cite that shows elementary-age students have almost no risk from the disease. They can go to school and learn while mixing with classmates.

The challenge is developing protective measures for the teachers and other staff members, particularly those with underlying health issues. Resources and brain power should be focused here so 2020 does not become a year that education is written off by children at a time they need it the most. Education is the best ticket out of poverty and there’s nothing more foundational than reading skills.

The longer kids stay out of school the more challenging it will be for parents who need to work to figure out how to handle the situation. That’s particularly true for a single moms.

Have you noticed the new bright yellow reflective tape framing stop lights around town? The reflective tape was used for the first time locally when Alameda County installed a three-way stop sign at the intersection of Sunol Boulevard and Castlewood Drive just southwest of the Interstate 680 interchange. The intersection had been the site of several accidents and I, frankly, thought the stop sign would not work.


It made the intersection much safer and it actually worked pretty well when traffic was flowing normally.

The reflective tape on the post makes the stop sign itself pop. Pleasanton’s chief traffic engineer, Mike Tassano, saw it and liked it so similar red reflective tape now highlights stop signs on Valley Avenue.

He wrote in an email that CalTrans also liked it so the highlight tape has been installed on several interchange intersections. It’s a simple innovation that might make those intersections safer. Incidentally, when I was out last week in the middle of the day I was surprised to see three motorists flat out run red lights—one blew by me after I had stopped for the red light.