Education

High absences prompt WCCUSD to close schools for two days

With a flare in COVID-19 cases keeping many students and teachers out of school this week, the West Contra Costa Unified School District has decided to shut down on Friday and Monday. The district will take two “smoke days” that the state allows superintendents to use at their discretion, to deep clean its buildings, Superintendent Kenneth “Chris” Hurst said in a news release Wednesday. Hurst attributed the high absentee rate to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is raging…

WCCUSD adds COVID-19 test sites to keep kids safe at school

Three more COVID-19 testing sites opened up this week for students and staff in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which resumed in-person classes on Monday amid a coronavirus spike propelled by the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus. The district already was offering tests at most schools and on Tuesday, added the Alvarado Adult School in Richmond, the Ohlone Elementary School campus in Hercules, and the district central office in Richmond to that list. Those sites are…

With the budget tight, Richmond middle school librarian crowd funds for books

In 2019, after eight years as an English teacher at Richmond High School, Rebekah Ponce-Larsen was excited to start a new job as a librarian at Lovonya DeJean Middle School. Being a librarian, she thought, would give her an opportunity to work with kids but in a different way. “I have more time to get to know individual students sometimes than teachers do,” she said. It’s through that personal relationship with students that Ponce-Larsen has transformed the library at DeJean,…

WCCUSD workshops give Black parents a chance to confront racial bias in schools

Shortly after the start of the school year, education consultant Mary Bacon encouraged about three dozen parents and guardians in the West Contra Costa Unified School District to engage teachers and schools to improve the educational outcomes for African American students across the district.  “We don’t have the luxury anymore to drop our kids off and say we’ve found the right school district, or this is the right school and the right classroom, and then not check on them again…

Q&A: What WCCUSD parents want to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for young kids

Vaccine appointments for children ages 5 to 11 were booked at all Contra Costa County Health Services sites this week, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month.  As of Friday, more than 18,000 young children in the county had received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Health Services — about 1 in 5 children. While the CDC recommends kids to be vaccinated, some parents are still hesitant about it….

‘It goes quick.’ Young kids roll up their sleeves for vaccines in Contra Costa

What 9-year-old Ashbey Asuncion was looking forward to the most after getting her COVID-19 vaccination, was going outside without wearing a mask and teaching her younger brother how to do a cartwheel.  She and her brother, Avery, 6, got their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond on Tuesday, one of the first Contra Costa Health Services’ clinics open to children ages 5 to 11. Health Services has partnered with a…

Vaccines for young kids now in Contra Costa but not mandated yet for school

A pediatric COVID-19 vaccine has been approved and Contra Costa County is preparing to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11. On Tuesday, following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency clearance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously approved a pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccination for younger children. The FDA has approved the vaccine for older children in May. The news comes just a few weeks after West Contra Costa Unified, Oakland Unified and other California…

El Cerrito and other Contra Costa libraries could see upgrades and expanded hours

Claudia Vela studies at the El Cerrito Library every morning. The 38-year-old graphic design student at Berkeley City College has a 1-year-old son — the library gives her a quiet place to get her work done.  But Vela wishes the library, which opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, opened earlier.  “I get a lot more done here,” she said.  Vela may get her wish under the Contra Costa County Library’s plan to keep libraries open for 56 hours…

WCCUSD joins districts requiring vaccine, a day before Newsom announces mandate

Hours before Gov. Gavin Newsom made California the first state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for school children, the West Contra Costa Unified School District voted on its own mandate, relieving some parents and angering others. Late Thursday night, after five hours of debate in the desolate gymnasium of Lovonya DeJean Middle School, a vaccine mandate for students ages 12 and older received unanimous support from all but one. Trustee Jamela Smith-Folds voted against the mandate, which will go into effect…