Education

Soccer clubs say WCCUSD field rules are punishing kids

Richmond youth soccer teams are struggling to hold practices and compete in matches because of rising field reservation fees and sparse access to outdoor recreation facilities. Officials representing three Richmond soccer clubs say the scheduling system imposed by the West Contra Costa Unified School District has kept them from accessing fields and forced them to play home games in Berkeley and Alameda. “It shouldn’t be this hard to get our kids to play soccer in Richmond,” said Samantha Torres, executive…

Richmond students walk out to demand ceasefire in Gaza

Over 100 students at Richmond’s Kennedy High School, many carrying “Free Palestine” banners, joined a nationwide walkout Wednesday to protest the bombings in Gaza, where thousands of people have been killed. Students took turns using a loudspeaker, as others formed a half circle around them, chanting: “Free Palestine” and “Occupation is a crime.” Carrying banners that said, “Save Palestine,” they gathered outside the school around 1:30 p.m. and remained for about half an hour. “I feel responsible to stop my state…

Classroom vacancies force WCCUSD teachers into period-subbing, risking burnout

Teachers in the West Contra Costa Unified School District started the year having to fill in for each other, as schools opened with teacher positions vacant.  Along with their regular classes, some teachers have had to fill in for shortages by subbing during certain periods.  This period-subbing would have otherwise been spent grading and preparing for their own classes, said Mitzi Perez-Caro, a computer science and journalism teacher at John F. Kennedy High School.  Teachers receive extra pay for period-subbing,…

Grappling with staff shortage, WCCUSD hires nonprofit to provide substitute teachers

The West Contra Costa Unified School District board unanimously approved a $306,000 contract this week to fill teacher vacancies with substitutes.  Under the contract with Scoot Education, TeachStart (Scoot’s nonprofit arm) will place one to two “high quality” substitute teachers at four schools: Kennedy High, Stege Elementary, Peres K-­8 and Helms Middle.  If those placements work out, the following year, the district can hire these teachers full time. In the contract, Scoot Education calls this a “two for one deal”…

Richmond group keeps Tibetan language, culture alive for growing Bay Area population

On Sunday mornings, preschool children gather in a small classroom in Richmond and listen to a teacher sing songs akin to nursery rhymes with Tibetan characters. A toy yak, paper mache nomads and pictures of snow-capped mountains in the room help the students imagine the Tibetan homeland.  The Tibetan Association of Northern California runs the school on Dalai Lama Avenue, inviting students to come away for a couple of hours to learn writing and speaking in their native language. It…

WCCUSD partners with firm to help more students access mental health counseling

Nearly 40% of 11th graders in the West Contra Costa Unified School District have reported “chronic sadness,” according to a recent California Healthy Kids Survey.   The survey says chronic sadness has been on the rise in the county and the state, across grade levels, since 2017. “This is definitely shocking,” said LaShante Smith, the district’s director of positive school climate, after presenting the survey results at the Sept. 6 school board meeting.  Smith said the district is hoping to turn…

Richmond High to host a districtwide College and Career Night with reps from 70 schools

Gina Saechao is sitting at a cafeteria table where she might have eaten lunch in high school, only this time she’s sketching out plans for the upcoming “College and Career Night.” On Thursday, Saechao and other event organizers will welcome area students and their families to meet over 70 representatives from colleges, universities, trade schools and nonprofits at Richmond High School. “As a student who came to the school, I never saw these opportunities for us here in Richmond,” said…

Upgrades to make Richmond’s Main Library more inviting to community

Cristal Banagan, a mother of four and longtime Richmond resident, thinks public libraries are becoming “obsolete.” None of her four kids has visited the library.  “At the stage we are with technology in this world, they’re unnecessary” Banagan said. “And these kids, that’s what they know.”  That, however, may not be true, now that Richmond is introducing reforms to help people engage more with the library’s resources through new programs and community outreach.  The management is drafting plans to renovate…

WCCUSD avoids deep cuts in new budget, but insolvency looms

With its newly passed budget, the West Contra Costa Unified School District barely averted financial catastrophe for another year. But cuts and layoffs are likely coming. Money troubles — due in part to the slowing economy, declining enrollment, expiring funds, and increasing costs — have long plagued the district. The new $521.5 million budget, which the school board approved on June 14, includes a plan to cut $24.3 million in the next two years. If not, the district could face…