School Reopenings, Housing, Election Logistics Feature in San Joaquin Board of Supervisors Meeting

September 15, 2020 at 7:21 pm

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors held their biweekly meeting Tuesday morning. Significant agenda items included matters on school reopenings, affordable housing, and logistics for the November election.

Seventeen San Joaquin schools, mostly private ones, have been awarded waivers to resume in-person learning for grades K-6, the board learned during the meeting. The five public schools (Colony Oak, Park View, Ripon, Ripona, and Weston) are all in Ripon Unified School District.

The other twelve, all private, are Annunciation, First Baptist Christian, Presentation, St. George’s, St Luke’s, Lodi Christian, Lodi Seventh-day Adventist, St. Anne’s, Bella Vista Academy, Montessori Elementary, Ripon Christian, and St. Anthony’s.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park said that she has received two additional applications for in-person learning since. San Joaquin County is still considered a high-risk, or purple county, on the state’s tiered coronavirus ranking system, so in-person instruction can only be approved on a case-by-case basis by her.

However, Park’s discretion is not the only factor in play. She told the Board of Supervisors that she recently had to turn down an application because a majority of parents did not want the school to reopen. The teachers’ union must also sign off on the waiver.

If either group does not agree with reopening, the school is able to reapply in a couple of weeks or once opinions have changed. The aforementioned school that was turned down, for example, was successfully approved in latter attempts.

Once (or if) San Joaquin moves up to a less restrictive tier, physical schooling will be able to resume without the waiver application. The county’s cases are trending down, but the presence of a spike from Labor Day gatherings has not been fully assessed.

Park recommended that San Joaquin residents get tested for COVID-19 in order to contribute towards lifting current restrictions, even if they do not exhibit any symptoms. Increased testing helps to reduce the county’s positivity rate, which is one of the metrics that determines its position on the state’s tiering system.

During the meeting, the board also approved new funding regarding affordable housing. The Crossway Residences housing project will be getting an additional $2 million in funding to build a total of 39 units, including furnishings. This brings the program’s total funding to roughly $5.5 million. The residences are designed for individuals with mental illness who are at risk of becoming homeless. Construction has been going for at least a year at the site on south El Dorado Street.

The supervisors also voted to move the project deadline back to March of next year to deal with expenditures and other matters. They had already altered the date to June 2020 in an August 2019 meeting.

The new residences have also turned out to be more expensive than what was originally planned, at $150,000 per unit instead of $100,000. However, this is still well below similar affordable housing developments because of the contributions of land, buildings, and developer experience by the San Joaquin County Housing Authority.

The board also approved a $1.2 million grant from the Help America Vote Act to deal with coronavirus-related expenses in administering the November election. There will be 34 voter service centers this year, open for four days of in-person voting beginning on October 31. Voter service centers will be open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm from October 31 to November 2. On election day, they will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Contactless drive-through voting will also be available at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds this year. The Registrar of Voters will also have some appointment-only centers this year.