San Diego Unified, the second-largest school district in California with more than 125,000 students, released details Thursday about its four-phase reopening plan.
"We know behind every student, behind every educator eager to return to the classroom, there is a family worried about the safety of their loved ones," Superintendent Cindy Marten said in a statement released on Thursday. "That is why our reopening plans are centered on the health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and families."
Last week, appointment-based in-person instruction began on elementary school campuses for "students with the greatest needs," as the district described them, under Phase 1 of SDUSD's reopening plan.
Most parents in the district, of course, are wondering about when Phase 2 starts, since virtually all students will, to some degree, be returning to classrooms.
“It’s a smokescreen, a sense of, look at what we’re doing, but we don’t have any intention to actually implement it," said parent Leslie Hofmeister.
She said details still need to be worked out with the teacher’s union and she wonders if the district can meet the metrics UCSD scientists have set for San Diego Unified schools to reopen.
“These impossible metrics for whatever reason San Diego Unified must follow, while no one else has to be held to these standards,” she said.
In a voicemail sent to parents on Wednesday, Marten said the district planned to announce a tentative start date for Phase Two next week.
Parent Dawniel Stewart said, “I don’t think it’s a smokescreen, I think what they’re doing is working with the experts in this area in order to determine when and how to reopen, and you can’t do that haphazardly.”
Stewart said like everyone else she wants children back in school, but she said testing and tracing need to be in place. She appreciates the district working on a safe plan, and said, “I trust the district is working to be ready.”
Under Phase 2, students from kindergarten through fifth grade would return to campus four days per week, Mondays through Thursdays, either in a morning session or an afternoon session. Fridays would be set aside for online check-ins and "independent asynchronous learning."
Webster's dictionary defines "asynchronous" as "digital communication in which there is no timing requirement for transmission and in which the start of each character is individually signaled by the transmitting device." So, essentially, it would be classtime on demand.
To help with social distancing and limiting contact-exposure, morning students would sit at every other desk, which would be separated by Plexiglas panels. Then, in the afternoon, children would sit in the desks that were empty in the mornings.
"San Diego Unified’s reopening plans include strict measures that are designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and to our community,” district physician Dr. Howard Taras, who is associated with UCSD's Department of Pediatrics, said in Thursday's statement. “We continue to rely on the expertise and collaboration of my UCSD colleagues and public health officials.”
Older students, in 6th grade through 12th grade, would return to campus in Phase 2 for two days per week, with half of them attending in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Students would attend six hours a day of on-site instruction and two hours of flex time. Fridays would be set aside for online learning for older students as well.
There is no projected date for students and educators to move onto Phase 3 of the district's plan, since it will, in all likelihood, depend upon the success of Phase 2 and, of course, current pandemic conditions.
When Phase 3 begins, though, elementary-schoolers will be on campus four full days a week, with Fridays set side for online and independent asynchronous learning. Secondary students would be in class four days a week, according to a fact sheet distributed by the district, with Fridays set aside for online learning.
Phase 4, when it arrives, will look like school did pre-pandemic -- other than any social distancing -- with full on-campus instruction by on-site teachers.
So what's the next step for San Diego families?
"All families will complete the Enrollment Form, prior to attending onsite Learning," the fact sheet stated. "Families will also receive a copy of the Student Family Guide. Families will continue to provide verification of student health screening upon arrival to the site, following most current health and safety guidelines."