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Morning Lookout: PVUSD drama deepens with email reveal, get your back-to-school questions answered

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, March 30 and today’s forecast is a Joe Nichols song — sunny and (a high of) 75. If you live in the mountains, the National Weather Service says the wind advisory that was in place overnight will expire at 10 a.m.

Today we will learn if Santa Cruz County will officially move to the orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Boardwalk announced it will reopen Thursday in anticipation of today’s orange tier announcement.

And if you’re like me, being outdoors these past few days may have been tough for you with the moderately high pollen in the air. Our Cypress Hansen spoke to the experts about which local flowers, trees and grass are the worst offenders so far this season. Meanwhile, our Wallace Baine makes a bold suggestion in his column this week: Get the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to Santa Cruz! And lower down in this newsletter, I announce the name of the winner of the Santa Cruz sunset photo contest from last week.

But before all the fun stuff, let’s get to the big news of the day:

An email suggests outside coordination over PVUSD superintendent’s ouster

PVUSD trustee Georgia Acosta
(Pajaro Valley Unified School District)

As Pajaro Valley Unified School District trustee Georgia Acosta was censured last week over a litany of issues, an eyebrow-raising email was made public for the first time. The message itself sought “approval” of a draft agenda for a key public meeting, but neither intended recipient had any official connection to the district or school board business. Now, one longtime educational observer suggests Acosta might have been planning “a coup.” Read more about the latest that Nick Ibarra has unearthed in this months-long saga here.

Buying locally produced food and goods benefits you and your community in more ways than you think.

TONIGHT: Join us for a conversation in both English and Spanish about getting kids back in classrooms

First grade teacher Lacie Wall welcomed students back to her classroom at Gault Elementary on Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that anyone with kids or loved ones in Santa Cruz County public schools attend our Lookout event tonight. Nick Ibarra will sit down with two top education officials — County Office of Education Superintendent Faris Sabbah and Director of School Safety Jennifer Buesing — to ask them your questions about getting kids back in classes after a year of the pandemic. The event will include simultaneous Spanish translation. Register to attend and submit your questions ahead of time here. Some of the topics Nick will cover with the panelists include:

  • Summer school plans
  • Physical and mental health of students
  • Academic support for students who have fallen behind, especially ESL learners
  • What funding is in place to help schools reopen safely

When: 6 p.m. TODAY
Where: Zoom
Cost: FREE
Again, here’s the registration link.

Suddenly sneezing? Spring allergy season in high gear; here’s your survival guide

A boy sneezes
(Pixabay)

If you’re among the 8-12% of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, your symptoms have probably been flaring up over the last few days. In fact, an allergist described Santa Cruz as the “perfect environment for tree pollen,” with mild winters, long springs and not-too-hot summers. Santa Cruz County has had consistent, moderately high counts since March 20, according to pollen.com, and The Weather Channel predicts higher levels in the coming week. Read more about which local plants are the big culprits — and how to tell the difference between allergies and COVID-19 symptoms — from our Cypress Hansen.

COVID 2021 updates: Today’s the day!

Easter
(Via Pixabay)

#BOLO: Orange tier announcement: While Santa Cruz County has remained consistently on track to reach the orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, we’ll know for certain when the state releases its data later today. If Santa Cruz County indeed meets orange tier thresholds, the less-restrictive tier will be triggered tomorrow. A few other Bay Area counties including nearby Santa Clara County have already moved to the orange tier. Be On the Lookout on our website for that announcement this afternoon.

What does orange mean for you? In this tier, gatherings of three households are once again allowed and places like museums, aquariums and movie theaters may open at 50% capacity. You can read the full list of orange tier restrictions and how they compare to other tiers here.

The joys of the Giant Dipper.
(Courtesy The Boardwalk)

Boardwalk rides reopen Thursday! There have been few sadder signs of pandemic malaise than a walk or drive past the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Beach Street without constant screams raining down from high above. Thursday the Giant Dipper will roll again — and the screams will return. The move will come a day after Santa Cruz County returns to the orange tier for the first time since a brief week-plus span in late October. The current reopening details only apply through April 11. Read them here.

Vaccine progress so far

Will there be enough COVID-19 vaccines to go around as California demand spikes? Also happening Thursday, the state is dramatically expanding the number of people who are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But will there be enough doses to go around? Not immediately. But officials are growing more optimistic that the scarcity that has caused so much frustration will soon morph into abundance — turbo-charging the inoculation campaign. Read more in our COVID Today blog here.

A little Lookout fun

Prince Harry and Meghan, Oprah Winfrey
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, speak with with Oprah Winfrey for a two-hour primetime special “Oprah with Meghan and Harry” on CBS. (Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions/CBS)

THE HERE & NOW: Let’s get Harry and Meghan to come to Santa Cruz: With the announcement that Prince Harry has taken a job in Silicon Valley, our Wallace Baine makes the case in his latest column that it’s time for Santa Cruz to get the couple’s attention as the perfect place for their growing family. He writes:

First, let’s address the elephant in the room here: So, why would we want Harry and Meghan to come to Santa Cruz? Aren’t the British royals the most grotesque symbol of privilege and elitism in the known universe? Aren’t these people the kind of celebrities-for-celebrity’s-sake that is the exact wrong fit for this place in this time?

Hey, I hear you. If interest in the doings of the royals were hard currency, I couldn’t buy a donut. But remember, in this case, Harry is the one who wants out. He’s a royal refugee.

Read the whole thing here.

Lookout’s sunset photo contest: Last week, I asked y’all to share with me your best Santa Cruz sunset photos and boy did you deliver. Among dozens of entries dripping with hues of gold and pink and purple and blue, our photographer Kevin Painchaud named his winner.

Congratulations, Dean Monroe for your winning snap of the Walton Lighthouse! I will contact you with details on how to collect your Lookout Santa Cruz T-shirt!

Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
(Dean Monroe)

Check out the submissions here and tell me which one is your favorite.

Around the state…

It’s not just QAnon. Democrats and Independents also want to recall Gov. Newsom: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is framing the burgeoning effort to remove him from office as a fringe Republican movement backed by right-wing extremists, Trump supporters and QAnon conspiracy theorists. But Democrats and independent voters — who together dominate the state’s electorate — have also signed the recall petition, motivated by frustration with Newsom’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more from our partners at Kaiser Health News here.

How did $2.7 billion in housing bonds disappear? Before California’s housing shortage contributed to a surge in homelessness and tipped median home prices close to $700,000, an obscure state financing agency led by top elected officials had the opportunity to help private developers build a trove of affordable housing. The California Debt Limit Allocation Committee was tasked with getting $3.5 billion in tax-exempt housing bonds out the door. Instead, the committee punted the money to an entirely different agency, which spent only a fraction of the bonds. Read more from our partners at CalMatters here.

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Around the county…

Suspicious Santa Cruz surf shop fire under investigation (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Some Central Coast taxpayers who received unemployment now eligible for tax credit (KION-TV)

County animal shelter reinstates free pop-up clinics (The Pajaronian)

Valley friends: Chris Clayton helps fire families (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.

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

Know your place
We’re all about Santa Cruz County, from north to south and in-between.