Monday, May 04, 2009


Three cases of virus in the county

Several schools have closed in California because of the AH1N1 flu

Editorial staff of La Opinión

May 4, 2009 - Among the first three cases of A1N1 flu confirmed in Los Angeles County, which were reported on Saturday night, there is a student of California State University Long Beach who is one of the probable cases.

This person began to feel the symptoms of the disease last weekend and on Monday he visited a health center for students.

The authorities suspect that there are two more cases in the city. The municipal official in charge of health Helene Calvet reacted by declaring a local health emergency, which allows her department to request that doses of Tamiflu be sent to treat people who could potentially become infected.

“The appearance of these cases does not change our recommendations to the public, but rather confirms what we suspected: that this virus is already in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, county public health director.

“We want to remind residents that there should be no panic. For the time being, the new flu virus has the appearance and the behavior of the regular one, the one we already are familiar with.”

There were also more cases confirmed in San Bernardino, Imperial, San Diego, Sacramento and Marin counties.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) there have been no confirmed cases.

All together, the Public Health Department of California had confirmed by yesterday up to 29 cases of the disease, with 130 probable cases that are still being examined. There have been no deaths due to the illness.

School closures

California State University San Diego yesterday temporarily closed its Children’s Center because several children and staff members presented symptoms of the flu, due to an “abundance of precaution,” said the director of the center Gina Jacobs, after it was discovered during the week that a student on the campus was probably suffering from the A/H1N1 virus.

Many of those infected in California are students, and several school districts responded by closing schools as a precautionary measure. Among the counties where classes were to be canceled are San Bernardino, Alameda, Marin, San Diego, Yolo and San Joaquin.

The Berkeley Division of Public Health identified a probable case of AH1N1 in a student at Malcolm X Elementary School and in his father. The school will remain closed for one to two weeks.

Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, Marin County, was also closed after a case of the virus was reported there.

Dr. Fred Schwartz, director of public health for the county, announced yesterday that the school would remain closed at least until Wednesday.

Schwartz said that the student, as well as a 35-year-old man from Novato, are confirmed cases.

On Friday, the county closed Bahia Vista Elementary School in San Rafael.

Fielding said that his department does not consider it necessary for the time being to close schools in Los Angeles County.

Principals and teachers have been asked to pay attention to children who sneeze or seem sick.

Visits stopped

All state prisons yesterday stopped visits to prisoners after one of them, in Centinela State Prison in the city of Imperial, turned out to be positive as a probable case of AH1N1 flu.

Luis Patino, spokesman for the prisons, said that it wasn’t known when the visits would be resumed.

The prisoner and his cellmate were isolated, and their symptoms are mild, said the spokesman.

Dr. Steven Ritter, the medical director of jails, said yesterday that the closure was a precautionary measure to protect the public, the prisoners and the staff.

Critical and legally obligatory activities like attorneys’ visits, medical evaluations and visits from social workers ordered by a judge were continuing but with additional precautionary measures.

Flu on the military base

Al Lundeen, spokesman for the Public Health Department of California, said that examinations were being performed on military bases. At Camp Pendleton it was confirmed that three marines had contracted the virus and been placed in quarantine.

The average age of the people with confirmed and probable cases is 18 years old, which means that many of those affected are members of the student population.

The official asked people to take the necessary precautions. In the whole country, the number of confirmed cases jumped yesterday from 160 in 21 states to 245 in 34 states. A baby in Texas who was returning from Mexico is the only victim who has died.


Teachers Being Laid Off

by Gabriel Lerner | La Opinión

May 4, 2009 - I am meeting with four high-school students. Two graduate in June and will continue in higher education; the other two have another year to go. For them, the billions of dollars that are being taken away from education mean the loss of teachers, classes, laboratories and opportunities.

Five teachers they know are being laid off, including Ms. Graner, who teaches history, and Mr. May, who teaches psychology.

Classes will have 40 students instead of 35. This, they tell me, means less attention from the instructor, more noise in the classroom and less concentration.

“In the Calculus BC class they had to fit in 52 students; there weren’t enough seats, and some students had to stand and lean against the wall.”

They don’t rule out that the District will get rid of more teachers and teaching equipment and reduce schedules.

March 13, when 27,000 teachers in the whole state –– nine out of every hundred –– received their pink slips, teachers, parents and students protested. Many came to class dressed in pink.

“I didn’t know, but soon we began to talk to the teachers who received the letters.”

They surrounded the teachers and expressed their sorrow. What will they do now?

“No one knows. Since in other places new teachers are also being laid off, they will probably leave teaching.”

Laying off teachers, which until recently was considered politically incorrect, is now permissible and is happening across all of California, with its thousand school districts, in an unstoppable current. More and more the solution adopted is to join the $11.6 billion in cuts to education.

In a recent meeting with La Opinión, the supervisor of a school district with 2,000 students said that of her 114 teachers, 23 would be laid off.

Last year, the Burbank School District honored Debbie Winsteen and 10 more elementary school teachers for their quality and achievements. Last week they laid her off.

Adriana Gervais teaches seventh grade in a school inaugurated in 2004. Only five of the instructors in the school did not receive layoff notices.

Kristen Vogel teaches third grade in San Francisco; her husband is a temporary fourth-grade teacher in Santa Rosa. Both are expecting their layoff notices.

And in Los Angeles, LAUSD, which employs 40,000, will lay off 2,000 elementary school teachers and 1,500 secondary teachers. The fate of the rest of them depends on the elections.

Tuesday, May 19, voters will decide Propositions 1A and 1B, among others. The second of these promises to return $9.3 billion to education beginning in 2011 and in installments, if we pass the first measure.

The teachers unions are divided. The biggest one, California Teachers Association (CTA), supports it and has spent millions of dollars on the campaign. But it is opposed by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which proposes getting back $9.3 billion in the courts, and the Association of University Faculty (CFA).

The wave of layoffs isn’t waiting for the results of the elections.

The Vallejo District, which will cut 10 million, will send the layoff letters on May 15, four days before the vote.

In Chino Valley, they’ve already lost 160 teachers and three elementary schools.

Public education is being attacked. The schools in poor areas and with immigrants are the most affected. Since in these schools there are more teachers without seniority, their layoffs will be deeper.

It would seem that governments have reneged on their obligation to invest in the education of those who need it the most because they have less.

The statements of support are just that, mere statements. Tirelessly theories are woven, plans are made and they announce decisions that take away the little that is left.

The current strategy considers education like just another business. Instead of children they see test results, although 65% of prisoners haven’t finished high school.

What’s encouraging is that independent groups of parents, teachers and students are springing up, who shake off their iPods, show interest in what is happening around them and come forth with enthusiasm and a will for change.

Before the cuts, California was in 47th place in the nation in its per student expenditure. With the cuts and their results, the abyss is the limit.



Subsidies for school lunches in danger

The increase in demand and the reduction of resources cause problems throughout the state

Victoria Waters | La Opinión

May 2, 2009 - More students than ever are applying for meals subsidized by the public schools of California, a tendency that worries the authorities because with resources being reduced they fear not being able to satisfy the needs of all the applicants.

“Our schools provide nutritious and essential food. If we want our students to be successful, we have to continue operating these programs,” said the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, during the Convention of the Nutrition Association in California Schools this week in Sacramento.

In the last year, the percentage of applications to receive free or reduced-price lunches has increased 12% to a total of 3.1 million students in the whole state of California.

This translates to 28 million additional meals this school year for a record of 770.6 million meals a year.

“The need for help is increasing, and we have to find ways to make sure that these students have this meal, which for many is the only one in the day,” said O’Connell.

The meals include breakfast, lunch and snacks, and they are under the strict state nutritional standards, which exclude soft drinks, foods with high levels of sugar or fat, and fried foods.

The increase in applicants for meals was not expected, and the funding, explained O’Connell, is not sufficient.

In spite of the fact that the program is financed mainly with federal funds, it also requires state money.

The additional $31 million for the program, which was included in a legislative bill, did not materialize because the bill stalled in the Education Committee of the Assembly this month.

Now, those funds, said O’Connell’s office, will be included in the new California budget plan, which is to be submitted at the end of May.

However, the approval of the bill is not a sure thing, particularly because of the precarious economic situation in the state and the uncertainty about the growing deficit.

Nevertheless, the bill has some powerful allies.

“Our students cannot make decisions or learn new concepts if they are going hungry,” said state Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who supports the increase in funds for food programs.

In recent years, several districts have had reductions in their meal programs that they have had to absorb in various ways, including the elimination of choices on menus.

“We have had to be very creative and spend our funds more intelligently and without affecting the students we serve,” said Laura Benavidez of Food Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

This district, the largest in California and the second largest in the United States, is serving some 5.5 million additional meals this year compared to 2008. The increase in cost, according to Benavidez, could reach 10 million dollars.

In other districts, like Sacramento and Oakland, the problem isn’t as severe, but it is significant.

“This year the program will experience $200,000 in losses, and that affects everyone. Last year, we had similar problems, and we managed the best we could,” said Jennifer La Barre, director of nutrition services for Oakland.

Due to the losses, said La Barre, the salad bar will be eliminated as of May.

“We still give our students good choices, but we also have to pay attention to our funds,” maintained La Barre.

“Any additional money would be a great help because thousands of children and families depend on this service,” added Benavidez.

The state budget will be divulged the third week in May.

Fifty-one percent of California students participate in the program of subsidized meals in the schools.

No comments: