San Diego's county health officer reiterated to educators on Tuesday that she expects that all schools will be permitted to reopen next week.
The decision to return to campuses, however, is still up to individual districts; San Diego Unified, for example, has stricter guidelines for returning than the state or county and is not expected to reopen till those benchmarks are met.
Perhaps even more significant than the reopening announcement, though, was the fact that Dr. Wilma Wooten told public- and private-school administrators during a video conference that she expected schools to stay open in the future even if cases spike again and the county was placed back on the state's watch list -- unless the case rate were to become "astronomically high."'
Wooten also said during the video conference that her office was expected to release reopening guidelines for schools on Tuesday.
California schools have been closed for in-person instruction since mid-March, when California Gov. Gavin Newsom initiated statewide stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While several districts came up with reopening plans for the start of the 2020-21 school year, the state issued new mandates in July that prevented K-12 schools from reopening in the fall if their county was on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list. San Diego County was one of them.
The county began a 14-day waiting period earlier this month, during which it had to maintain case rates below 100 cases per 100,000 residents in order to re-open schools. Should that metric remain below 100, schools can theoretically welcome students back to school on Sept. 1.
Since the county was taken off the state's monitoring list, dozens of elementary schools have applied for -- and received -- waivers permitting them to open up by Sept. 1. Since the county has made regular progress exceeding the case-rate goal, however, county health officials have suspended the waiver process in the likelihood of all schools being permitted to reopen.
On Aug. 10, the SDUSD unveiled its strict criteria for reopening campuses in-person, based on input from a team of scientists at UC San Diego. The district said schools would not reopen any time soon and when they do, it will be a slow, deliberate and phased process. Among other things, San Diego Unified will require there to be less than seven community outbreaks in a seven-day period (a community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households in the past 14 days).