8 to 3: COVID in schools, children in Afghanistan and other news

This is the edition of the 8th to 3rd newsletter from September 6th, 2021 about school, children and parenting. Do you like what you read? Sign up to get it in your inbox every Monday.

Labor Day used to mark the end of summer, the last weekend for family outings before the school year started, often on the Tuesday after the holidays. That’s no longer the case now, as most schools start their year in August, mostly to play the standardized exam schedule (and complete the fall semester before the winter break).

Now it’s just another long weekend, often spiced up with some workers’ marches to remind us of what we’re celebrating.

Sonja Sharp is gone. I’m Mitchell Landsberg, assistant host of this week’s shortened, labor-saving newsletter. And what better way to start than with news about the LA Teachers Union? My colleague Howard Blume writes that United Teachers Los Angeles has dropped its requirement that eligible students – currently 12 years of age and older – receive a COVID-19 vaccination. He says it is a strategic move, not one that reflects a change of heart on the part of the union, which remains concerned about transmissions from unvaccinated students to (presumably vaccinated) teachers.

This is not an idle concern. Last week there were eight coronavirus outbreaks in schools in LA County alone.

There is good news, however. Fewer students and teachers were exposed in these outbreaks than in the previous week. “This most likely reflects an improved understanding of who is exposed and a great job of the schools committed to reducing exposure,” said Barbara Ferrer, LA County’s director of public health.

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Speaking of divorce, jail, abortion and pumpkins …

Divorce is difficult for children, but sometimes necessary. That seems to be the consensus in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which is in a nasty breakup – one that has lasted decades. Malibu residents say they contribute a disproportionate share of the district’s income but are scarce on education spending. In Santa Monica, district officials said they concluded that the 70-year marriage was unsaved – but they are convinced that Malibu is trying to take advantage of the district in the split. It’s a mess, beautifully captured by Maria La Ganga of The Times.

We hope this doesn’t apply to you, but there may be good news for parents whose teenage children were convicted of a serious crime in LA County and convicted as adults. According to California Proposition 57, children convicted as adults can apply for re-conviction as adolescents – even if they are no longer minors. Ordinarily they would be challenged by the prosecutor. But in Los Angeles County, Dist. Atty. George Gascón has instructed his lawyers not to oppose such allegations in 12 out of 17 cases. Of course, not everyone is satisfied with this indulgence, least of all the victims’ families.

If it’s Labor Day, it must mean Halloween … won’t happen for the next two months.

Pumpkin art from Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge in 2019 replicates Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.

(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

But we’re already starting to see ads and window displays, apparently because we’re going to have to get through Halloween before Christmas advertising can begin. Anyway, all of this is a lengthy way of saying the Times sneaked foot on the Halloween train with this guide to fall events for plant lovers, including hay rides and pumpkin carving. Happy Thanksgiving!

More news from all over California and beyond

An estimated 24 or more children from the Sacramento area are trapped in Afghanistan visiting family over the summer vacation. Sacramento bee

There is a shortage of substitute teachers in California caused by a general teacher shortage and now teacher absences due to COVID. Some subs say that low pay is the root of the problem. San Francisco Chronicle

What kind of leader should Austin Beutner replace as Superintendent of the LA Unified School District? (“A rare person,” says a professor.) EdSource

Larry Elder, who could become California governor if voters recall Governor Gavin Newsom, says sex education has “no role at all in schools.” Modesto bee

Here are six strategies experts recommend for creating a COVID-proof classroom. KQED mind / shift

A new book in the series “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” deals with “100 real examples of black women whose stories should be seen, centered and celebrated, but were not”. Adds writer and mother Adiba Nelson, “My daughter got the message loud and clear.” Washington Post

In the UK, young children are not required to wear masks in school, and most do not. New York Times

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