Join Our OC Education Forum on COVID -19 Safety and Our Schools! Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 5 PM!

Join me on Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 5 PM for an Orange County Education Forum on COVID-19 Safety and Our Schools.

For many of us, there is no bigger question right now than whether our children will be attending in-person classes this fall.

President Trump seems desperate to have schools re-open regardless of the danger to students, teachers, and staff, even threatening to cut federal aid to school districts that decide that the risk of COVID-19 infection is too great to return to in-person classes.

Yet the federal government has provided no real guidance for determining when it is safe to re-open schools, or the proper procedures for school to follow to limit the spread of COVID-19 if they do re-open.

In the absence of federal leadership, these decisions and procedures have been left to governors and, crucially, local school districts. As USA Today put it, “Abandoned by any semblance of national leadership during a raging pandemic, students, teachers and staff are being told to jump into the deep end and return to school buildings.”

Here in Orange County, our Board of Education made national headlines when it voted 4-1 (with the sole Democrat dissenting) to re-open this fall, without requiring the use of face masks or social distancing.

For many, there was tremendous relief when California Governor Gavin Newsom stepped in to mandate that any schools in counties on the state COVID-19 watch list, which includes Orange County, could not have students in classrooms. The Republicans on the OC Board of Education then responded by suing the Governor over his decision to prevent schools from opening in-person.

We will be discussing this lawsuit, as well as the larger questions when and how to re-open our classrooms, with three leading members of Orange County school boards currently dealing with the COVID-19 crisis: 

Kerie Kropke of the Brea Olinda School Board. Kerie earned a B.A. in political economy from U.C. Berkeley, an M.A. from Cal State Fullerton in History, a post baccalaureate from Chapman University in Communication Disorders, and a M.A. from Cal State Fullerton in Communication Sciences.  She is an elementary public educator with a California Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and has recently become a speech language pathologist specializing in language, early intervention and autism spectrum disorder.

Gina Clayton-Tarvin of the Ocean View School Board. Gina is a long-time educator, and was first elected to the OVSD Board of Trustees in 2012. She was recently voted President of the Board, after serving as Clerk, Vice President, and three terms as President of the Board. Gina holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Anthropology and a California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, as well as a California Secondary Single Subject Credential in Biology. She holds an English Learner (EL) Authorization and Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic Development (CLAD) Certificate and is authorized to provide instruction to English learners. She has also worked for Special Education as a home school teacher. She successfully completed the California School Board Association Masters of Governance program and received her certification in 2014.

Kris Erickson of Orange Unified School Board. Kris is the founding attorney at the Law Office of Kristin A. Erickson. She has held board positions on PTA, put on fundraisers for student events, mentored at-risk kids, coached mock trial, and planned our annual staff appreciations to honor hard-working teachers. She also started a grassroots organization, CARE, with several other parents to bring long-needed improvements to our high school campuses. Kris attended Western State University School of Law.

Jamison Power of the Westminster School Board. Jamison was first elected to the Westminster School Board in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016.  He received his B.A. from UC Irvine and his J.D. from UCLA.  In his professional life, Jamison serves as in-house counsel for Hyundai Motor America.  He also provides free legal assistance to low income families, and has received multiple awards for his work.  He previously served as a member of the Vietnamese-American Education Advisory Council, and he worked closely with the Superintendent and the Board to ensure that WSD became the first district in California to implement a Vietnamese-English dual immersion program.


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The OC Board of Supervisors Should Increase COVID-19 Testing, Work with OC Cities to Distribute Federal CARES Act Funds, and Follow the Governor’s Guidelines to Re-Start Our Economy

As of Monday, May 18, 2020, there have been 4,434 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Orange County, with 88 deaths.  Over the past week, Orange County has averaged 125 new cases and 1.7 new deaths per day

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued new, less retrictive guidelines for moving further into the four stages toward reopening our economy. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or CARES Act, which created a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to be used to help state, local, and tribal governments navigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These federal funds were mean to help American cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Orange County received $554 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government, earmarked for local jurisdictions, in order to pay for services such as police and fire protection, as well as social services.  But none of these funds have been released to Orange County cities.

Orange County COVID-19 Tracker for Mon., May 18, 2020. Source: OC Register

In fact, although 31 out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, the Board of Supervisors has been silent on when, how or whether it intends to fulfill its obligation under the CARES Act to distribute this much needed funding so that our cities remain able to function..

In addition, while the Board of Supervisors has indicated that it plans soon to “re-open” Orange County, the County has not provided the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing needed to improve public confidence and sustain our economic recovery.

Therefore, I have joined with Sunny Park, Buena Park City Councilmember, and 19 other local Orange County elected leaders in writing a letter to the Board of Supervisors calling on them to increase testing, work with local cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to keep OC residents safe from COVID-19 as we re-start our economy.

Here is the full text of our letter to the Board of Supervisors, as printed in the Voice of OC:

“Everyone wishes we could just go back to our old normal life of hugs, handshakes, restaurants and ball games. But we know we’re not going to achieve our “new normal” without a thoughtfully planned process that increases our understanding of the virus, reduces risk of exposure, and includes all responders in coordinated action.

A successful and sustained economic recovery requires that we avoid COVID-19 outbreaks. This is especially true for Orange County, because we depend on tourism, retail, restaurants and entertainment to fuel a significant portion of our economy. If customers do not feel safe in our county’s businesses, recovery will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

Orange County has been operating under a shelter-in-place order since March 19. Governor Newsom acted quickly and, in large part, the residents and businesses of Orange County have complied. As of May 13, there were 3,749 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Orange County, 80 deaths, and 248 were currently hospitalized. While those numbers represent immense human suffering, they certainly would have been much worse without the profound, selfless sacrifices made by our entire community to comply with the stay-at-home order.

New COVID-19 Cases in Orange County by Date Reported. Source: OC Health Care Agency.

We are moving toward carefully reopening the county. Governor Newsom is set to move into Phase 2 of his plan by reopening certain retail businesses in a matter of days, again with appropriate precautions. We support a thoughtful, incremental reopening that avoids the risk of an outbreak that would set back the substantial progress we have made at great cost.

More testing and contact tracing can improve public health and accelerate our economic recovery. More information could allow restrictions to be more narrowly tailored to those who are infected or at-risk.

We need the right kinds of tests to know who is currently infected with COVID-19, and who may have already recovered from it. This is why, as fellow elected officials committed to safely and effectively reopening Orange County, we respectfully requested that the Board of Supervisors aggressively increase antibody and antigen testing in each city that has a qualified testing facility.

Not only do we need the right kinds of tests, we need to consider who receives them. While the Board of Supervisors has taken new steps to allow teachers, essential workers, and senior citizens to receive tests whether they have symptoms or not, it won’t be enough to rebound our economy. We have encouraged the Board of Supervisors to expand this eligibility pool, allowing anyone who requests a test to receive one, regardless of symptoms.

Each city in Orange County has taken local emergency actions on COVID-19, but these actions have significant costs. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside funds to help cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Thirty-one out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, which is earmarked for local jurisdictions. Unless the county begins to distribute these funds soon, our cities will be crippled, which could impact services such as police, fire, or social services.

Each of us can do our part to reduce COVID-19 by practicing social distancing and wearing protective face masks. In addition, we urge public support for more testing in Orange County, and the collaborative distribution of CARES Act funding to our local communities, each of which desperately needs it.”

The letter was signed by the following Orange County elected officials:

  • Sunny Park, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Jordan Brandman, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Jose Moreno, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Glenn Parker, Councilmember, City of Brea
  • Art Brown, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Katrina Foley, Mayor, City of Costa Mesa
  • John Stephens, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Andrea Marr, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Manuel Chavez, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Jan Florey, Mayor, City of Fullerton
  • Diedre Thu-Ha Nguyen, Councilmember, City of Garden Grove
  • Kim Carr, Councilmember, City of Huntington Beach
  • Melissa Fox, Councilmember, City of Irvine
  • Sergio Contreras, Councilmember, City of Westminster
  • Kerie Kropke, Board Clerk, Brea Orlina Unified School District
  • Ian J. Mcdonald, Boardmember, Centailia Elementary School District
  • Joanne Fawley, Boardmember, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • Cynthia Aguirre, La Habra Unified School District
  • John Polacio, Santa Ana Unified School District
  • Chris Brown, Board Vice President, Savanna Unified School District
  • Lorainne Prinsky, Board Vice President, Coast Community College District

If you agree with us that OC Board of Supervisors should increase COVID-19 testing and tracing, work with OC cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to re-start our economy, please let the Orange County Board of Supervisors know by contacting them at (714) 834-3100 or sending them an email.

Thank you.

For more information and resources regarding COVID-19, please click here.