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Stewart Cink raises the Safeway Open trophy after his victory on Sunday at Silverado Resort and Spa.

Napa school district: Some in-person teaching may resume in October

A moderate rate of coronavirus infections could allow students to return part-time to Napa-area public schools as soon as next month, educators have announced.

On its website Monday, the Napa Valley Unified School District said it expects to be ready to offer a blend of in-person and remote teaching in mid-October should local health conditions allow. A hybrid teaching model would advance the district into the second of four phases intended to return students in Napa and American Canyon to a full on-campus schedule as the rate of COVID-19 cases eases or a vaccine becomes widely available.

All teaching within NVUSD has taken place remotely since March 13, when the district board ordered campuses shut down with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

Families must fill out an enrollment form to allow NVUSD to assess the number of students returning to campus, the district announced. Forms must be filled out for each returning student by Friday, Sept. 18, and are available online at Click the “Next” button at the bottom of the screen to fill in student information.

For more information, visit

After entering the second phase of the transition, children and teenagers would go to their classrooms two days a week, while continuing internet-based distancing learning on the other three days, Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti said in the statement posted to the NVUSD website.

District leaders previously announced that further improvements in Napa County’s virus outlook would allow public schools to advance first to a third stage in which students go to campus five half-days a week – some in the morning and others in the afternoon – and then to a final stage of all-day classroom instruction.

An enrollment form is required for NVUSD to assess the number of students who will return to campuses during the second phase. Forms must be filled out for each student and completed by Friday, Sept. 18.

However, a complete break away from online teaching does not appear imminent. Mucetti advised families to prepare for continued remote instruction, not only because of the gradual nature of the return to classrooms but also in the event an in-school COVID-19 outbreak forces new closures.

As of Monday, local schools have the option to begin welcoming back students because of Napa County’s place for two weeks on California’s “red” tier for its number of new COVID-19 infections. The red category is one level above the “purple” status indicating the highest rate of viral spread, which carries the most restrictions on opening schools, businesses and religious sanctuaries.

Napa County, which recorded 30 coronavirus cases over the weekend, has reported fewer than 100 new infections in each of the last three weeks.

Both the school district and Napa County’s Health and Human Services agency are following state guidance on school reopenings, which requires testing at least 25% of staff members every two weeks – from teachers to office staff to food-service workers and custodians. Earlier, Mucetti predicted the testing requirement would cost NVUSD some $40,000 a week to screen 250 people.

California guidance to public schools, which Napa County’s public health officer Dr. Karen Relucio said she will follow, calls on campuses to close if 5% of the total number of students and staff contract the coronavirus in a 14-day span. All NVUSD campuses would shut down if one-quarter of them are forced to suspend in-person classes.

If an increase in coronavirus cases drops Napa County down to the purple level, schools that have already reopened can stay open, but are advised by the state to ramp up employee testing, Relucio said in a statement Monday. Any schools that have not yet reopened could not fully open until the county returns to the red tier for 14 consecutive days, but may follow state guidance for teaching smaller student groups on the premises.

In addition, public schools in the Napa Valley may have to draw on a smaller supply of substitute teachers than was available before the pandemic. While about 400 fill-in teachers normally are available countywide, only 160 had responded earlier this month to an annual survey seeking substitutes for this school year – and 30% of those declined to teach in-person classes, the Napa County Office of Education said.

Watch Now: How to set up a good homeschool environment

Central Business District
Plans to replace Napa's Kohl's with hotel, apartments, shopping move forward

Plans to create downtown Napa’s largest private development – one that could cost $250 million and displace Kohl’s department store – are moving forward.

Developers Zapolski Real Estate has come to an agreement with the city to purchase the parking lot on the north side of the Kohl’s building. That clears the way to start the redevelopment process for a 2.2-acre site.

Zapolski Real Estate already owns the Kohl’s building — along with the adjacent Gordon Building at First and Browns streets and the entire First Street Napa project, formerly known as the Napa Town Center, that stretches two blocks to the west.

This new effort is known as the Napa Parkway Plaza project. A total of 120 apartments for rent, a 210-room hotel and 35,000 square feet commercial space for lease will replace the existing Kohl’s building and parking lot.

If all goes as planned, the downtown Napa Kohl’s will eventually move to a site at 333 Soscol Ave. near Auto Row. According to the developer of that site, Ronmor, the Kohl’s lease is in the process of being completed.

“We’re hoping by this fall to have something concluded” with the Kohl’s lease, said Doug Porozni, vice president at Ronmor. “I don’t see anything in the way right now to prevent us from doing that.”

After years of work redeveloping First Street Napa, “We’re finally getting momentum,” said Andrew Mazotti, director, Zapolski Real Estate.

The company wants to continue that progress at the “underused” Kohl’s site, he said.

A few other things have to happen for the plans to go forward. Zapolski Real Estate has applied to the city to change the zoning to allow for residential housing in the same structures that contain hotel, retail and commercial uses. Zapolski has also asked the city to amend the downtown “entertainment zone” to include the entirety of the property.

Mazotti is defending the proposed hotel part of the project. While Mazotti said he received favorable feedback from the public, not everyone has agreed. On social media, some readers have questioned the need for a hotel.

“Housing for the local employees would go great there,” wrote Facebook commenter Melissa Colgrove. “There are enough hotels!”

“Are you kidding me?” wrote commenter Fic Candelaria. “We definitely don’t need any more hotels here in Napa we have plenty of them.”

“Tourists =$$$” wrote Facebook commenter David Rojas.

Mazotti said he understands that “there are some people who wish (downtown) was the way it ‘used to be.’”

“They don’t like the change and progress,” he said. “But for this site, I think everybody knows there could be a higher and better use for Kohl’s” in the middle of downtown Napa.

“I think it’s hard for someone to look at the site and say ‘this should remain exactly the same’” as it is now.

Mazotti said that some people have a misconception about “too many” hotels, especially in Napa. Just because a hotel is proposed doesn’t mean it will get built, he said.

He pointed out examples of the Ritz Carlton once approved for First Street, the Franklin Station hotel project and a hotel at the Oxbow south parking lot. None of those hotels have broken ground yet. “The stars have to align to actually build these hotels,” he said.

Of all the hotels proposed for downtown, the Archer Hotel Napa is the only one built in the city center in recent years.

“The Archer has had a positive impact on downtown,” he said. “We have the results.”

Now, “We want to do a second one.”

“I don’t understand the people who have an issue with it,” said Mazotti. Perhaps, “They don’t fully understand the benefits they get from TOT (Transit Occupancy Tax) tax that comes from hotels. People sometimes lose sight of the fact that we are a tourist-based economy,” he said.

“Without the hotel, the economics of the (Parkway Plaza) project collapse,” Mazotti said. “You’ve got to have a hotel at the core of the economics there. We all in Napa benefit from the economic engine a hotel can be.”

As far as the hotel, the application notes it could be as high as six stories and categorized as “an upper upscale” property.

“A nice urban hotel,” said Mazotti. Not a five-star resort like Auberge du Soleil or Meadowood, but a hotel with an average nightly rate “a bit higher” than Archer or Andaz.

It could end up being the highest-end hotel in the downtown area, which would be good for the market, according to Mazotti. Such a hotel would bring visitors “with a larger disposable income to the downtown area, looking to patronize the shops and restaurants,” he said. “And there’s demand for it. People want to be in downtown, we’re finding.”

This whole plan began when the Napa City Council voted on June 23 to sell the parking lot north of Kohl’s to Zapolski Real Estate for $870,000. The parking lot also includes a vacant bus terminal.

At that meeting, Vin Smith, the city’s community development director, said that relocating Kohl’s would “free up the site to redevelop it into something that would be more consistent with a downtown environment. That Kohl’s building is typically not the size of a building you would see in a downtown,” he said. “It’s very large and imposing.”

Downtown will benefit from having a planned “visual connection” between First Street Napa and Main Street through a site that needs redevelopment, Smith said.

Watch now: a tour of First Street Napa

Trump spurns science on climate

SACRAMENTO — With the smell of California wildfires in the air, President Donald Trump on Monday ignored the scientific consensus that climate change is playing a central role in historic West Coast infernos and renewed his unfounded claim that failure to rake forest floors and clear dead timber is mostly to blame.

The fires are threatening to become another front in Trump’s reelection bid, which is already facing hurdles because of the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and social unrest. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in his own speech on Monday, said the destruction and mounting death toll across California, Oregon and Washington require stronger presidential leadership and labeled Trump a “climate arsonist.”

Trump traveled to Northern California to be briefed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and federal officials. At one point, state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged the president to “recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests.”

“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” Crowfoot added.

Trump responded, “It will start getting cooler, just you watch.”

Crowfoot politely countered that he wished the science agreed with the president. Trump countered, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”

That striking moment came on a day of dueling campaign events, with Trump and Biden dramatically contrasting their outlooks on climate change —and the impact it has had on the record-setting fires ravaging the West Coast.

Trump’s suggestion that the planet is going to start to unexpectedly cool is at odds with reality, experts say.

“Maybe there is a parallel universe where a pot on the stove with the burner turned to high ‘starts getting cooler.’ But that is not our universe,” said Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field.

Biden lashed at Trump, saying the moment requires “leadership, not scapegoating” and that “it’s clear we are not safe in Donald Trump’s America.”

“This is another crisis, another crisis he won’t take responsibility for,” Biden said. He said that if voters give “a climate denier” another four years in the White House, “why would we be surprised that we have more of America ablaze?”

Trump, who was briefed during a stop near Sacramento before a campaign visit to Phoenix, had been mostly quiet as the catastrophe on the West Coast has unfolded over the past few weeks. He tweeted appreciation of firefighters and emergency responders on Friday, the first public comments he had made in weeks about the fires that have killed dozens, burned millions of acres and forced thousands from their homes.

The president arrived at at Sacramento McClellan Airport to the powerful scent of smoke from the fires burning some 90 miles away.

He contended anew that Democratic state leaders are to blame for failing to rake leaves and clear dead timber from forest floors. Trump offered no evidence to support his claim, and wildfire experts and forest managers say raking leaves makes no sense for vast U.S. wilderness and forests. Many of the blazes have roared through coastal chaparral and grasslands, not forest.

University of Colorado fire scientist Jennifer Balch called Trump’s deflecting blame on forest managers “infuriating.”

“It’s often hard to know what Trump means,” Balch added. “If by forest management he means clear-cutting, that’s absolutely the wrong solution to this problem. … There’s no way we’re going to log our way out of this fire problem.”

Biden, who gave his climate speech in Delaware on Monday, released a $2 trillion plan in July to boost investment in clean energy and stop all climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.

But as the wildfires rage, some climate activists have expressed frustration that Biden has not been more forceful on the issue. He has not embraced, for instance, some of the most progressive elements of the Green New Deal.

To that end, Biden in his address did not wade into political and policy disagreements among Democrats, progressive activists and even some Republicans who acknowledge the climate crisis. As he has before, Biden sought to frame his energy proposals as an immediate necessity and a long-term economic boon focusing more on new jobs and a cleaner economy that would offset any initial costs.

“Donald Trump’s climate denial may not have caused these fires and hurricanes,” Biden said. “But if he gets a second term, these hellish events will continue to become more common and more devastating and more deadly.”

In 2015, Trump stated bluntly: “I’m not a believer in global warming, I’m not a believer in man-made global warming.” After the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concluded climate change would hurt the economy, Trump said he read it but didn’t believe it. In September 2019, he falsely slammed the Green New Deal as an effort that would lead to “No more cows. No more planes … no more people, right?”

Citizens group begins deep dive in Napa Valley groundwater issues

A large citizens group has begun shaping a state-required plan to make certain Napa Valley groundwater serving world-famous vineyards and wineries is never sucked dry.

The Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee — 25 people appointed by the Board of Supervisors representing such interests as farming, wineries and the environment — was in action last Thursday with a Zoom meeting.

“Does Napa County consider its current groundwater – where we are at this point — sustainable?” asked group member Chris Sauer of the Napa Sierra Club.

Groundwater levels are stable, county Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said. Whether groundwater is sustainable depends on policies for the future.

Those policies will come from the thick plan that the county is crafting for the state Department of Water Resources. Whether Napa County’s future groundwater regime is similar to today’s or has tighter rules for well use is in play.

The committee looked at the plan’s draft introductory chapters. Member Amber Manfree, a geographer who lives in Soda Canyon, protested that discussion of vision and project goals should come first.

Member Mike Hackett of Angwin said it seems the plan-to-be has a predetermined outcome and the group’s task is to prove this outcome is correct.

County staff and consultants say data to come in later chapters will support statements made in the initial chapters, Morrison said. If the group disagrees, then it will have to revisit the initial chapters.

“It is a leap of faith at this point, you’re right,” he said.

Some people like to read the end of a book first, Morrison said. But the work in the initial chapters is giving the context and background for what is to come.

Manfree saw room to improve the writing quality in the initial chapters.

But there will be no “to be or not to be” eloquence in the plan. Morrison said the county is creating a government document to meet government requirements, not a Shakespeare play.

Hackett zeroed in on the relationship between the Napa River and groundwater that can feed it during summer months. Sections of the river have dried up in recent years, he said.

“It’s important for us to dig down and find out why, because we can’t say we’re doing great in Napa County if the river is going dry,” he said.

Napa County isn’t creating a river management plan, but a groundwater basin plan, Morrison said. To the extent that groundwater influences surface water, surface water is an issue. But groundwater is the plan’s primary function.

The initial chapters reviewed by the group on Thursday, as bureaucratic as they might appear, are apparently the easy part.

“These are the lightweight chapters,” consultant Vicki Kretsinger Grabert said. “It’s going to get more and more data-driven as we go along.”

Committee members are Beth Milliken for Napa Valley Vintners, David Graves for Napa Sanitation District, Derek Rayner for Calistoga, Garrett Buckland for Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Geoff Ellsworth for St. Helena, Harvest Duhig for Coalition Napa Valley, John Ferons for Yountville, Johnnie White for Napa County Farm Bureau, Joy Eldredge for Napa and Michelle Benvenuto for Winegrowers of Napa County.

Other members are Connor Bennett, Michael Dooley, John David Ficeli, Eric Fitz, John Alan Galbraith, Hackett, Lester Hardy, Jim Lincoln, Manfree, Peter Nissen, Sauer, Patrick Tokar, Susanne von Rosenberg, Paul Warnock and Robert Zlomke.

The group’s responsibility is to recommend a Napa Valley subbasin groundwater sustainability plan to the Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which has the same members as the Board of Supervisors.

The county is scheduled to adopt a plan in late 2021. It will then submit the plan to the state Department of Water Resources.

Go go to see agendas for the Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee.