There are two critical conditions impacting when the San Diego Unified School District will reopen schools for in-person instruction, according to Board President Richard Barrera: the spread of the virus and the rollout of the vaccine for teachers and staff.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the board heard from its pediatrician, Dr. Howard Taras, about both conditions.
As for vaccine availability for children, Dr. Taras said the U.S. is lagging -- Taras said trails for kids 16 and under haven't even started. So while he expects most staff members who want to be vaccinated to do so by next school year, said he doesn't expect most students or school staffers to be vaccinate by the start of next school year.
"When we start the new school year in August or September, we may still have to test students to make sure they’re not coming in asymptomatic positive. We’ll probably have to have lower density classrooms," Taras said.
Testing pilot programs began last month, according to district nurse Susan Barndollar. There are currently 10 pilot sites and they hope to add 10 new sites every week with an emphasis placed on communities with the highest case rates, according to Barndollar.
Come next school year, it's highly likely there will be parents who aren't comfortable sending their kids back to school until they are vaccinated, Taras said.
"Long-term planning should consider these things into next school year," he said.
Parent Ebey Sorenson is frustrated by the delay in getting kids back on campus.
"They keep setting these benchmarks that they keep adding -- you know ... every teacher needs to be vaccinated, that was not something that was ever discussed in any reopening plan prior to having a vaccine,” Sorenson told NBC 7 on Tuesday..
Barrera said the virus changed the discussion.
“In an environment where the virus is surging at these levels … making sure that we can vaccinate our educators does become a critical step in getting to reopen,” Barrera said.
The board president also said that some school nurses and health care staff are receiving the vaccine now.
There is still no target date for bringing students back on district campuses.