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Morning Lookout | BREAKING: Middle, high schools eye reopening, Sutter reveals new info about vaccine shortage

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, March 4. It’s going to be partly sunny with a high of 58.

We’re waking up to breaking news on the education beat: As elementary students are beginning their returns to classrooms, two school districts — Santa Cruz City Schools and Scotts Valley Unified — are now eyeing hybrid learning for middle- and high-school students.

And, in rapid succession, we’ve got new developments on the Sutter/PAMF vaccine mess, have outlined what will happen with your PG&E bill this month, are learning about a string of arson fires in the Felton area and have more to share about anti-maskers and their weekend return to Trader Joe’s.

Meanwhile, we’ve got another great membership offer to share with you, and it’s tied to Santa Cruz County’s hottest new book. To get the offer, use the code HINDSIGHT2020 when you check out here.

With that, let’s get to your headlines:

Suddenly schooling

A family walks their kindergartener to class at Brook Knoll Elementary School.
A family walks their kindergartener to class at Brook Knoll Elementary School on Wednesday, the first day of hybrid in-person school.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

BREAKING THIS MORNING | Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley middle and high schools eyeing paths back to in-person learning: Two of the county’s largest school systems are now outlining paths to get middle and high school students back to school buildings. Santa Cruz City Schools emailed parents about middle- and high-school return plans Wednesday afternoon, while Scotts Valley Unified School District informed parents about its latest plans on its website. Both school systems are citing Santa Cruz County’s expected return to the less restrictive “red tier” next week as the reason for potential middle and high school reopenings. Read more here, and stay tuned for updates throughout the day.

Scotts Valley kindergarteners return to classrooms, leading off wave of partial reopenings: Kindergarten students walked into classrooms for the first time in a year Wednesday morning in Scotts Valley — a long-awaited return that is leading off a wave of partial elementary school reopenings across Santa Cruz County. While the day, like back-to-school in normal times, was bittersweet for parents and kids, one mom said remote learning just didn’t offer the same kind of social development for her child. Nick Ibarra paints a picture of what the day meant for educators, parents and students.

Another COVID Read: How can we support teachers and their mental health amid COVID-19? (LA Times)

Three local nonprofits - Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, and Teen Kitchen Project - are working hard to...

Sutter reveals new details about tens of thousands of second-dose vaccine appointment cancelations

A nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine

Sutter/PAMF is scrambling to find enough COVID-19 vaccine to provide second doses for 40,000 people in Northern California whose appointments were canceled and another 50,000 whose slots were in jeopardy. The health system revealed to Lookout’s content partner the LA Times that the state instructed Sutter to not hold back any vaccines for second doses, but then supply dwindled, resulting in the dearth of shots. Read more here.

#BOLO: County health officials will give their weekly update on the state of the virus in the community and vaccine distribution in the county. Be On the Lookout on our website at 2 p.m. today for the livestream of the press conference and expanded coverage after that.

Higher PG&E electricity and gas rates kicking in this month

Starting this month, PG&E electricity and natural customers will see higher monthly utility bills. The utility says a typical residential electric and gas customer will see an increase of $13.44 per month. Read more about the rate hikes here.

Missing the bus: It’s been a COVID travesty not seeing the Brew Cruz’s mobile party pass you on the road

Annie and her bus
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

For beer lovers, Annie Pautsch of Brew Cruz and her beloved bus “Betty Jane” are perhaps the most poignant symbol of pre-pandemic Santa Cruz. There was a time when it was pretty much an everyday experience to spy Betty Jane on the road or at a stoplight somewhere in the county. Now, as the pandemic’s vice grip gradually begins to loosen, locals are wondering: Will Betty Jane, or Schoolboy, roll again? And, when? Read more from our Wallace Baine here.

READ ALSO: Majority white areas got more PPP business loan money than Latino areas, UCLA study says (LA Times)

Local crime beat

Sheriff seeks witnesses to several Felton-area fires after charging woman with arson: A 39-year-old woman is facing a felony arson charge in connection with a fire in Felton early this year, and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether she’s connected to four other fires that officials say were deliberately set in the Felton area since mid-January. Read more here.

As complaints about anti-maskers persist, Santa Cruz police disclose probe, tell businesses how to respond: In the wake of anti-mask activists showing up — albeit briefly — at Santa Cruz’s downtown Trader Joe’s for a second time in the past month, police are advising business owners about what to do if people try to enter businesses without face coverings. Police also said they’ve launched an investigation into the incident Sunday, as well as other anti-mask activities that day. Read more here.

Celebrate the MAH’s 25th Anniversary with new exhibitions and events happening throughout Santa Cruz County in 2021.

Lookout special membership offer: A look back as we gaze at the future…

2020 Hindsight
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

After one of the toughest, strangest years in recent history, we now look to healing and recovery. A new book by news photographers Shmuel Thaler and our very own Kevin Painchaud gives us a chance to reflect on the lessons of 2020. Our Wallace Baine, who wrote the foreword for “2020 Hindsight,” also wrote a great piece about it a few days ago. Lookout now has a cool offer — become an annual Lookout member and get a signed copy of the book as part of your membership. All proceeds from the book sales are going to the Community Foundation’s ongoing fund for those displaced by the CZU fires. If you would like to get this offer, enter the code HINDSIGHT2020 as you check out here.

Around the county . . .

Court seeks out new cohort of Santa Cruz County civil grand jurors (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Organization raises funds for LGBTQIA+ community during pandemic (The Pajaronian)

Moveable Murals exhibit returns to downtown Watsonville (Good Times)

That’s it for today.

If you’re not already signed up for Lookout’s Breaking News Text Alerts, I highly recommend you do. When major news happens, we deliver those headlines right to your phone, so you can be in the know all the time. You can sign up for text alerts here or just text the word BREAKING to (831) 265-0158.

To ensure you’re staying informed about all the goings-on in Santa Cruz, consider becoming a Lookout member. Our content isn’t possible without community support.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor