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Returning to the Classroom

9th grader Sierra Golden has enjoyed her time at home, but is ready for in person learning. Katie Gordon is a senior and plays softball for Foothill, posing here at a recent game in Thousand Oaks.

by Amy Brown
Part 1 of 2

When local schools closed down in March of 2020, it happened fast, and it was expected by most to last for a few weeks. Then VUSD announced that Fall 2020 would be 100% distance learning, with the hope to bring back students to the classroom in January 2021. Due in part to recent changes in social distancing guidelines from the CDC and health departments, the Board of Education met on March 28th, 2021 and voted in favor of a model that will allow students currently assigned to a hybrid learning model to return more fully to an in-person experience starting April 12. Students in grades 6-12 beginning on April 26th will return to a full time in-person five days a week schedule through the end of the school year, according to the district. Elementary schools, which have already been open to hybrid learning, will return to a full-time in-person model five days a week on April 12.

How do the students, with a year of not being in the classroom, feel about the news? Sierra Golden had been excited about being in high school much of her young life. “All my friends and I would talk about from kindergarten to 8th grade was looking forward to being in high school,” said the current freshman at Ventura High. Instead, her high school experience started in her bedroom, via computer. “Of course, all of us were excited because we thought we would get to go back quickly, but when reality hit, I was super bummed,” said Golden. “But I’m a homebody; I love being home. But then mental health started becoming a thing,” she said. Golden reports that she realized that some friends started changing–they were getting sad, and not wanting to get out of bed, and that’s when she realized how important it really was to socialize. She says she’s excited about in-person learning. “I haven’t had a chance to be a high schooler, and I’m excited about seeing friends, and I already love all of my teachers.”

Some students had issues keeping their grades up during the past year and can’t wait to get back in the classroom on a normal schedule. Avery Almora is an 8th grader at Balboa Middle School, and said that she struggles with ADD, and that the most difficult part of distance learning is staying focused. “My grades were always good until quarantine happened, and I’m really happy to get back in class and get back on track,” said Almora. “It’s going to be a little difficult, obviously it’s a big change; it’s been a long time since we’ve been in school.  A lot of people didn’t really learn anything, if they weren’t paying attention.” She has been doing a small group twice weekly study hall on campus at Balboa in the meantime that she said has really helped, too.

12th graders lost most of their junior year and all of their senior year so far. No Homecoming, no prom, no face to face with teachers. “I feel really bad for the teachers because it’s so much work on their part,” said Katie Gordon, a senior at Foothill “They’ve had it so rough! No one turns on their cameras, the teachers now have to do both online teaching and in person, but at least they won’t just be talking to blank screens.” Gordon plays center field for Foothill’s softball team, with a truncated season more restricted than other high schools, since they use Ventura College’s fields. That means very few spectators allowed. “It sucks that our parents can’t come to home games,” said Gordon, who plans to major in Political Science and possibly become a lawyer after college.  She says she looks forward to returning to in person learning for what’s left of her senior year. “I feel like if I miss this opportunity, I’d regret it.”

Visit Ventura welcomes new team member Briana Diamond

Briana is a happy person who has melded work with joy.

Visit Ventura welcomes their new, talented, light-up-the-room Digital Marketing Assistant, Briana Diamond to the Visit Ventura team. Yes, Diamond has a resume — but she isn’t confined by one. She graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography and Film with a bachelor’s in Visual Journalism in 2014. Which, not coincidentally, is the perfect pairing for a life of trail running, surfing, rock climbing, swimming, horseback riding, and, yes, photography.

“We are so thrilled to have a local photographer join the team,” said Marlyss Auster, Visit Ventura President & CEO. “We had worked with Briana on other projects, so we already knew that her outside-the-box creativity and passion for Ventura was a natural fit for the Visit Ventura team.”

As for Diamond, she is the happy person who has melded work with joy.

“My goal with photo and video is to capture the true beauty and connection nature brings us daily and to get outside,” she said. “I picked up my first camera when I was 7 years old and immediately knew this is what I want to do forever.”

Visit Ventura is a non-profit organization designed to increase visitor expenditures, tourism revenues, and local employment opportunities by promoting Ventura as a travel destination. During the pandemic they have turned their efforts toward doing the next right thing; including helping local businesses stay in business through various creative programs that emphasize supporting local.

Harmon Canyon is Ventura’s newest hiking and mountain biking gem

With over 2,100 acres, the ever-evolving Harmon Canyon is Ventura’s newest hiking and mountain biking gem because of the selfless and diligent work of the Ventura Land Trust. The nonprofit organization acquired the land and maintains it. The hillside nature preserve is a pastoral heaven to be enjoyed. To visit and hike Harmon Canyon you can park at 7511 Foothill.


Ventura Unified announces return to full-time in-person instruction

Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Roger Rice announced at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, March 23, that all grade levels in the Ventura Unified School District (City of Ventura) will be going back to school full-time, in- person when they open for the 2021-22 school year in August.

“I am thrilled to announce that due to recent changes in social distancing guidelines from the CDC and our state and local health departments, in addition to other strategies we are currently implementing, we will open full-time, in-person with a schedule similar to pre-Covid at all of our school sites in the Fall of 2021,” stated Dr. Rice, Superintendent.

The school district is currently purchasing furniture for many of its schools to replace outdated and bulky desks, chairs, etc., to utilize space in the classrooms fully. Funding for this furniture and other necessities to maximize the number of students who can fit into each classroom comes from a one-time State In-Person Learning Grant.

The school district assumes that other COVID-19 prevention and mitigation protocols will remain in place for the Fall 2021 semester, including masks, hand washing, disinfecting, contact tracing, and more. “Our elementary schools have been open to hybrid in-person learning for some time now, and VCPH confirmed this week that we have had no student COVID transmission spread on our campuses. Our students, teachers, and staff are doing a tremendous job of following the guidelines. We believe that our community can wear masks and follow the guidelines if it means we can resume full-time in-person learning,” stated Dr. Rice. “The District will be providing families with more concrete information and schedules as soon as the details are finalized.”

For those families who are not ready to return fully, options will be provided regarding distance learning and homeschooling. The District will be sharing those options closer to the Fall 2021 semester. COVID-driven change is always possible, and the community will be notified if changes must be made.

Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year is occurring now at the Ventura Unified School District; for those interested in enrolling, visit for more information.

El Camino High School students interview Mayor Sofia Rubalcava

Mayor Sofia Rubalcava shared with the team that she is a native Venturan.

ECTV Students in the award-winning El Camino High School media program recently interviewed Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava in the CAPS Media studio. The discussion covered a variety of topics with particular emphasis on racism. Ms. Rubalcava shared with the team that she is a native Venturan who attended Sheridan Way Elementary, De Anza Middle School and Ventura High School, and continued her education at UC Santa Barbara. Raised on the west side of Ventura, Ms. Rubalcava the first Latinx mayor of the city.

Her candid discussion with the teenagers about growing up in the area and discussing racism, part of an ongoing series, was highly informative and enlightening. “Mayor Rubalcava was friendly, open to our questions and made sure everyone was included in the discussion on racism,” said Ruby Intner, a senior in the ECTV program. “I learned a lot about her growing up in Ventura and her experiences on the Westside.” The mayor after spending time in deep discussion said “I’m so impressed with these students’ thoughtful courageous discussions about issues like racism. These are issues we didn’t discuss in high school. Seeing them with such knowledge and passion gives hope for the future.”

ECTV is part of the Ventura Unified School District’s Digital Broadcast Media program. The ECTV crew takes over the CAPS Media Center every week to write, produce, direct and edit video and audio programs covering topics of interest to themselves, other students and the community.

Mentor/Instructor/Media guru Phil Taggart is the wizard behind the socially-distanced curtain, directing the program. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the ECTV students have continued to produce programming utilizing all COVID protocols.

This is the fourth year of the VUSD/CAPS Media ECTV collaboration. Graduates of the program have gone on to study all aspects of media production in colleges throughout the state.

The wide-ranging and engaging interview with Mayor Rubalcava will air on CAPS Media, Channel 15 and on the CAPS Media website,, as well as on the ECTV social media sites.

ECTV and CAPS Media producers gathered another set of well-deserved awards at the 2021 WAVE Awards. W.A.V.E. stands for Western Access Video Excellence. The awards contest is open to media cent

er members of California, Nevada, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico and Arizona.

This year’s WAVE Award winners from CAPS Media are ECTV (El Camino TV) for “ECTV – Mental Health” in the Community Issues Youth category, “ECTV at the Agricultural Museum” in the Culture and Lifestyle Youth category. ECTV for “ECTV – Confronting Cancer” in the Magazine Youth category, and CAPS MediaaCenter for “Ready for Wildfires 2020” in the Instructional/Training Videos Professional category. This year’s awards increase the CAPS Media members and staff collection of WAVE Awards to more than 50 over the past decade. Congratulations to all the honorees and winners for the outstanding productions.

Due to the COVID-19 emergency the CAPS Media Center is closed to Members and the public until further notice. We do not expect to reopen the facility to the public until after herd immunity is achieved. We encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to you.

During the shutdown, CAPS Member/Producers can submit programming via the online portal at for broadcast and streaming on CAPS public access television Channel 6 and on CAPS Radio KPPQ 104.1FM.

All of us at CAPS Media hope everyone stays Safe, Strong, Socially Distant and Healthy during these very challenging times.

Gracie Gary celebrates 103rd Birthday

This is Gracie Gary, she just celebrated her 103rd Birthday on March 5th, 2021. She lives in our senior mobile park. She is still very alert, works crossword puzzles, and claims one of her life time secrets, is her consistent exercising. She is amazing for her age. 

Submitted by Alice Sepulveda

New Ventura Police Officers and Lateral Officer

Due to COVID-19 restrictions each officer had a personal ceremony.   

by the VPD

Please join us in welcoming our newest Ventura Police Officers! Eight recruits and one Lateral Officer have taken their Oaths of Office, received their badges, and were sworn-in.

They’ve pledged their commitment to protecting and serving our community and we are very proud to welcome them to our VPD family.

Congratulations to Lateral Justin Fernandez and Police Officer Trainees David Anderson, Jerred Bartmann, Nicholas Gendreau, David De La Garrigue, Chris Gomez, Joseph Hernandez, Joshua Ming, and Liliana Zarate.

After being sworn in, each trainee is required to complete the Field Training Program which takes an additional 6 months to complete. The overarching goal of the program is to further develop well-rounded officers that represent our community well.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the desire to make this a special occasion for all, we opted to bring each officer in for a personal ceremony. This way, we were better able to keep our distance and five family members were able to join to pin the badge on their loved one and take a few unmasked family photos. Congrats to all!

The Life & Times of Doug Halter

This is a book about Doug Halter’s fight to live with HIV, his family and his love for Ventura.

by Staci Brown

“You’d be expected to survive around 6 months, maybe a little longer if luck is on your side.” This was what Doug heard in 1987. Miraculously, with the help of Dr. Scott Hitt, he went on AIDs cocktails and continues to live today. Sadly, his boyfriend Randy Morrison wasn’t so lucky.

This is a book about Doug Halter’s fight to live with HIV, his family, his loves and his impressive careers leading up to purchasing and renovating homes and becoming a well-known landscaper. He got his first landscaping job at age 15 and eventually was able to do what he was passionate about. “I got an adrenaline rush as we neared completion and the original vision had come together”, he said after one of his first big jobs.

Although Doug had a rocky relationship with his father, Doug has demonstrated great warmth, kindness and honesty with the many, many friendships he has developed in life. He had a great mentor in Grandpa Salvatore who taught him all there was to know about plants, flowers, trees, seeds and gardening. He looked up to his grandfather and has very good memories of being with lots of family members at the Santa Cruz house where grandma and grandpa lived up until the earthquake. Doug ended up buying that house and rebuilding a new one where they have great family reunions. Doug met Randy Encinas coincidentally at the same place he met his previous Randy, and after a slow start, they became partners, eventually being able to marry in a grand ceremonial style at the Botanical Gardens in 2013 which is appropriate considering Doug was instrumental in the vision and opening of the gardens.

Doug stated “I wrote this book to share my life journey and all the unexpected challenges and triumphs; not unlike most others but the success I achieved through it all by having the courage to be the person God created me to be and knowing that every day is a gift to be used to make a difference and to develop and use our own unique potential to make the greatest contributions to our community and society.”

Read more in Doug’s book along with his plans for the city. I agree with every one of his plans and I am grateful that Doug has finally taken a well-deserved seat at the Ventura City Council. Congratulations!!

I hope these dreams come true. Doug has done so much for this city. Besides the Botanical Gardens vision, he bought the church that became the Rubicon Theater and brought exceptional theater to this town, and oh, so much more which you will find out about when you read his book.

And Doug has the greatest collection of photos in his book. You can see young Doug and how handsome he has remained, as well as both Randys’ as well as his brother, sister, grandparents, parents, family, houses, friends, landscaping and Ventura! It is a delight to look at this treasure, young and old.

I am very excited to see what the future holds and I am glad I got to know Doug better in this wonderful book.

You can purchase the book directly from Doug at

The roads were out and Ventura was isolated

Once our Mission served as a rescue center.

by Richard Senate

In the months of December 1861 and January and February of 1862 a chain of rainstorms devastated Ventura County and all of southern California. It rained both day and night with one claim that it rained one hundred inches!

Some reported the hillsides and mountain changed their shape. This could be 19th Century bluster and hyperbolic language but it was historic as it ended the cattle culture of the area. Today weathermen estimate it was more like 60 inches. This is still a powerful set of storms.

So much water run off came down Main Street that it was impassible and washed a fifteen-foot channel down the center of the street. The worst night was that of February 1, 1862. Homes were lost and many, using horses, rescued people from the roofs of their homes. Half of the Ortega Adobe was washed away and never rebuilt. Many locals were cowboys and used their skills to rope people and pull them though the raging waters to safety.

That awful night, the old Mission San Buenaventura became a rescue center for the town. All were welcome that terrible night and given hot soup and a dry place to stay as waters surged around the building. One dedicated Chumash parishioner went up to the bell tower, in the height of the storm that dark night, and continuously rang the large bell so that survivors could home in on the sound to reach the safety of the Mission in the dark.

The roads were out and Ventura was isolated. In this crisis, like they always do, Venturans pulled together to help one another in this natural calamity. That night, as survivors huddled in their blankets in the old adobe and stone church, there were no Roman Catholics, Protestants or Buddhists, all were simply Venturans.

Task Force on Aging and Families applauds President Biden’s call

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will improve the caregiving industry.

Following President Biden’s announcement calling on Congress to put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities, the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families (TFAF) leadership released the following statement:

“Quality, affordable health care should be accessible to every single American whether they’re able to travel to receive treatment or require care in their own homes,” said the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families. “There is a crisis in caregiving that has plagued seniors, families and health care workers alike for too long, since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Too many families and caregivers – predominantly women – feel unseen as they struggle to provide for the health, safety and dignity of their loved ones. Today’s announcement is an acknowledgment that House Democrats and the Biden-Harris administration see you and that help is on the way.

“This investment of $400 billion into the care economy will make home care more affordable, accessible and dignified. It is particularly crucial for workers and families that President Biden has a plan to ensure that home health care providers have a pathway to good-paying jobs with union protections, as we know that when we support our caregivers and provide them with a better quality of life, the quality of care rises as well.

“This investment represents the beginning, not the end, of our collaboration with the Biden administration to support the workforce that empowers older Americans and people with disabilities to live in their own homes and communities.”

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan for improving the caregiving industry includes:

  • $400 billion for expanding access to home and community-based services (HCBS).
  • Extending the longstanding Money Follows the Person program that supports innovations in the delivery of long-term care.
  • Supporting well-paying caregiving jobs that include benefits and the ability to collectively bargain.
  • Building state infrastructure to improve the quality of services and to support workers.

Vice Chair Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Co-Chair Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Vice Chair Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) led a letter with 108 of their colleagues to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris reiterating the importance of including home- and community-based services (HCBS) in the Build Back Better infrastructure package. A copy of the letter can be found here. The Task Force on Aging and Families has advocated for the importance of HCBS for families throughout the pandemic, including in its April 2020 principles for protecting the health and dignity of older Americans amid COVID-19.