Education

‘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…

‘We look to you for bold leadership’: WCCUSD board president asks county health officer for vaccine guidance

The West Contra Costa Unified school board president is urging the county health officer to issue guidance on a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the school district. “This is the public health issue of our lifetime,” Mister Phillips wrote in an email to Contra County health officer Dr. Chris Farnitano that Phillips posted on his Facebook page Friday. “We education leaders are not public health experts. We look to you for bold leadership as our public health officer.” Phillips asked Farnitano…

WCCUSD teachers file complaint with state over COVID safety concerns

Frustrated with the lack of protocols to protect staff and students from COVID-19, West Contra Costa Unified teachers have filed a state workplace complaint against the school district.  The complaint was filed on Aug. 31 with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The teachers favor a vaccine mandate for kids ages 12 and up, which the school board was expected to discuss this week but postponed. Superintendent Chris Hurst said in an internal email that more research was…

100-year-old park ranger Betty Reid Soskin feted by national media, honored by WCCUSD

It was a big week for Betty Reid Soskin, who turned 100 years old on Wednesday and was honored that day with the renaming of an El Sobrante middle school for her. Soskin has been an activist in the Bay Area and a park ranger in Richmond for many years and shows no sign of slowing down. She’s familiar to West Contra Costa school children who have taken her tours through Richmond’s National Historical Park, which has sites throughout the…

VIDEO: At Richmond glassblowing studio, art is a Slow Burn

Bryan Goldenberg has been a glassblower for 27 years. He holds weekly classes for students of all experience levels in his new studio, Slow Burn Glass, in Richmond. In August, Richmond Confidential filmed one of Goldenberg’s classes and chatted with students. Some were inspired to take the class after watching the Netflix series “Blown Away,” which is about glass-blowing. Others said they were looking for a communal activity after a year of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. For all, the…

Q&A: new West Contra Costa schools superintendent discusses bias in teaching, returning to class, other topics

Kenneth “Chris” Hurst Sr. is the new leader of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, replacing Matthew Duffy, who led WCCUSD for five years. Before taking the job in May, Hurst was superintendent of the Othello School District in Othello, Washington, for five years, where he is credited with increasing graduation rates and decreasing overall student absences. Prior to his long career in education, he served 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following that, he received his doctorate in…