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Morning Lookout: Latest on in-person learning, 25-cent cup charge and SC economy

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, March 23. It’s going to be a mostly sunny day with a high of 66, but this afternoon, brace for possibly 30 to 40 mph winds, the National Weather Service says. We’ve got the latest on today’s forecast here.

The county’s 10 school districts have now released back-to-(hybrid) school plans for all grade levels. But the time students will get to spend in classrooms each week varies greatly from district to district. Our Nick Ibarra talked to top education officials about why this is the case.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County supervisors might delay launching a 25-cent disposable cup fee until next year and are considering a ballot measure to funnel some of that added revenue into environmental efforts. Separately, the city of Santa Cruz is charting a post-pandemic course for future economic development.

Nationally, we’re waking up to the tragic news that 10 people, including a police officer, were shot and killed in a mass shooting in a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket. Meanwhile, just days after eight people — most of them Asian Americans — were shot and killed at three Atlanta spas, extremism experts are warning that QAnon’s latest vein of conspiracy theories dangerously center around Chinese and Jewish people.

Let’s dive in:

Dates and hours released: Local districts all on path to hybrid reopening, but in-person time varies greatly

Today, fourth, fifth and twelfth graders at Scotts Valley Unified School District and fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Mountain Elementary School District head back to classrooms for the first time in a year. Meanwhile, we’ve obtained hybrid learning schedules for all grades in all 10 Santa Cruz County school districts. But the time students can expect to spend in the classroom each week varies significantly from district to district. Read more about the time variations across various districts and see all districts reopening calendars in this story by our Nick Ibarra.

GET YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED | School reopenings in Santa Cruz County: When it comes to education post-pandemic, parents, educators and students have endless questions. So Lookout, in partnership with Event Santa Cruz, is giving you a chance to run your questions by two top Santa Cruz County Office of Education officials: Superintendent Faris Sabbah and Director of School Safety Jennifer Buesing.

When: 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30
Where: Zoom
Cost: FREE
Register and submit your questions ahead of time here.

Most middle school children in Watsonville have benefited from a visit to the Watsonville Wetlands. It’s a non-profit...

County, city beat

A plastic cup near San Lorenzo Park.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz County might delay 25-cent charge for disposable cups until 2022, eyes potential ballot measure: An ordinance approved by Santa Cruz County supervisors in late 2019 will require restaurants and stores that sell beverages in single-use disposable cups to charge an additional 25 cents for each cup. But the rollout of the new charge has been delayed multiple times so far because of COVID-19, and another delay is likely on the way. Read more about this from our Patrick Riley here.

As COVID-19 ebbs, Santa Cruz looks to boost commercial areas, attract more visitors and diversify its economy: A little more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Santa Cruz is squarely focused on healing the economic damage that 2020 wrought. And, this month, Santa Cruz City Council members signed off on a five-year economic development plan for the city devised by Berkeley-based Strategic Economics, a consulting firm the city hired in 2019. The 54-page plan broadly outlines a five-year strategy for economic growth that aims to improve the city’s No. 1 economic driver — the tourism and hospitality industry. Read more of what the city will focus on to recover from last year from our Isabella Cueto.

UK variant detected in Santa Cruz County for the first time

A SARS-CoV-2 virus particle isolated from a patient with the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K.
A SARS-CoV-2 virus particle isolated from a patient. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

The first cases of the “B.1.1.7 variant” were detected in Santa Cruz County — stemming from positive cases from January and February — according to county officials. This is the highly publicized variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that was first detected in the United Kingdom and that scientists believe might be more transmissible. Read more from our Mallory Pickett about what this means in our COVID Today blog here.

Around the state…

QAnon now pushes alarming conspiracy myths targeting Chinese and Jewish people: Experts on extremism are warning about a troubling shift in the right-wing QAnon movement toward a new vein of conspiracy that blends anti-Chinese and anti-Jewish tropes with fears of vaccines and a global plot to take over the world. It marks a shift from the wild lies the movement spread before the November election and in subsequent efforts to keep former President Donald Trump in office. Read more from our partners at the LA Times here.

Who will be Newsom’s pick for state Attorney General? Meet the contenders: The last time a California governor chose a new attorney general, Donald Trump had just been elected president. With a Democrat now in the White House, the attorney general who broke records suing Trump has been nominated for a cabinet position by President Joe Biden. If he’s confirmed, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom must pick a new attorney general for a decidedly different time. Our partners at CalMatters profiled the contenders. Read about them here.

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

The University Library at UC Santa Cruz recently announced the online publication of the Santa Cruz County Historic...

Around the county…

Traveling Highway 9 this week? Be ready for roadwork (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Construction begins on new Santa Cruz very-low-income housing project (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Dozens show support locally for Asian Americans after recent attacks (The Pajaronian)

Recipes from a Mountain garden: Wild Blackberry and Beetroot skillet cake (San Lorenzo Valley Post)

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor