IN BRIEF | February 17, 2022 – VC Journalist

Pictured: Merideth Hart, Economic Development Manager, City of Ventura. Photo submitted.

by Kimberly Rivers

Masking in K-12 schools is still mandatory, for now

Although the state has lifted the mask mandate for those vaccinated (effective Feb. 16), the mandate is still in effect for students and staff at K-12 schools, and will likely remain so for at least two weeks. Moreover. In a statement released Feb. 17, Dr. Cesar Morales, Superintendent of Schools for Ventura County, said, “With COVID-19 case numbers declining and schools being some of the safest places in our community, I think the mask mandate should be lifted in schools at the same time it is for the rest of the state.

WHO SHOULD STILL WEAR MASKS? AND OR? The California Department of Public Health released new guidelines, which went into effect Wednesday, February 16, regarding masks and face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID. The changes still require unvaccinated people to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces, and vaccinated people are still recommended to wear a mask when there may be an increased risk, such as at large gatherings or events. . The settings in which all people, regardless of their vaccination status, should always wear a mask are: All places and public transport vehicles, including planes, trains, buses, taxis and airport terminals airport and bus. Homeless and emergency shelters, including heating and cooling centers. Long-term care centers and all adult and elderly care facilities. Indoors at K-12 schools and daycares. (Should remain in effect until February 28.)

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said further evaluation was needed before removing the mask mandate from schools.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19 and Ventura County Schools, visit

Grant Funds Sexual Assault Unit

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has approved a $2.5 million federal grant that will help the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office (VCDA) form a Sexual Assault Unit that will begin to analyze, investigate and prosecute old sexual assault cases that have been cold for long periods of time. According to Erik Nasarenko, VCDA, the grant will fund the testing of pending sexual assault kits and other activities of the new unit.

Old Thousand Oaks School site to see affordable housing

Hillcrest Christian School of Thousand Oaks has sold its former school property to the City of Thousand Oaks for $10 million as it moves to larger property to accommodate increased enrollment. The four-acre property, now owned by the city, is intended for the housing of the workforce.

According to Lee and Associates, the real estate company that handled the sale, the school received more than 14 offers for the property, but the sale to the city was able to be expedited with the escrow closing in just 180 days.

Dustin Gardner named Ventura County Fire Chief

On February 5, 2022, Dustin Gardner became Ventura County’s 12th Fire Chief after being nominated by Ventura County CEO Mike Powers with concurrent approval from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. The position is responsible for directing activities in the Ventura County Fire Protection District to protect life and property from fires and other emergencies.

Gardner, a 23-year veteran of the Ventura County Fire, was selected following a national search. His most recent position with the county was as deputy fire chief.

Former Oxnard Marine sentenced to 210 years in federal prison

On February 14, the United States Department of Justice announced that Michael J. Pepe, 68, formerly of Oxnard, had been sentenced by the United States District Court to 210 years in prison for what the district judge central Dale S. Fischer called “monstrous” and “horrific crimes”. Pepe, a retired United States Marine Corps captain, who has been in federal custody since 2007, was convicted by a jury in August 2021 on charges related to “illicit sexual conduct” with eight underage victims while in Cambodia in 2005 for this purpose. Some victims were as young as 9 when the crimes were committed.

Pepe was first arrested in Cambodia in 2006 and brought to the United States in 2007 to be charged. He was convicted on the basis of a federal law that applied to US citizens committing crimes while traveling abroad. On appeal, with arguments that the government failed to prove that it was “travelling” when the crimes were committed, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the conviction. Pepe was retried and convicted on various charges. A restitution hearing is scheduled for February 28.

Ventura promotes Meredith Hart to economic development manager

The city of Ventura has announced the hiring of Meredith Hart as economic development officer, a position vacated last fall when Estelle Bussa announced her resignation.

Hart has served as Acting Director of Economic Development since October 2021, and prior to that, she served as the city’s Safe and Clean Program Manager, where she worked with businesses and community groups to address the needs of homelessness and the lodging.

In his new role, Hart will oversee programs to develop the city’s economic sustainability and growth through business retention and attraction, expanding workforce development and educational partnerships. , and increased job opportunities.

Prior to joining the city, Hart worked at Downtown Ventura Partners, where she served as associate director.

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