In a joint statement issued Monday, officials at the state's two largest school districts -- San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified -- announced that classrooms and campuses would remain closed at the start of the school year and that students would begin the academic year exclusively online.
In June, the San Diego Unified School District approved a plan that would have allowed students to return to campus on Aug. 31, the first day of school, while still offering a distance learning option for students who aren't ready to come back to a physical campus. Monday's decision, however, means students will be limited to distance learning, however, at least at for the first week of the 2020-21 year.
"One fact is clear: Those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available," the statement, released Monday, read in part.
"California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control. Therefore, we are announcing that the new school year will start online only. Instruction will resume on … Aug. 31 in San Diego Unified, as previously scheduled."
The school district also confirmed the following in their announcement:
- The school year will resume on schedule.
- Teachers will receive expanded training in online education to better meet the needs of students.
- Students will receive additional training at the start of the year to become better online learners.
- Online supports for parents will be increased to make it easier for them to participate in the education of their students.
- Principals will continue customized planning for the safest possible reopening this fall.
- Free meals will continue to be provided at the current distribution stations.
Officials said on Monday that both districts intend to craft plans to return to in-person classes during the upcoming school year "as soon as public health conditions allow."
San Diego Unified will update the public on Aug. 10 regarding its plan -- based on information from public health partners -- to return to campuses and "will also outline the physical measures planned for each school to guard against the pandemic and detail the online learning program for the 2020-21 academic year."
President Donald Trump has been adamant that school campuses should reopen in the fall, even hinting that the federal government might withhold funding from jurisdictions that fail to return to in-person instruction.
"Today our school district, along with the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced that due to skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates the new school year will start online only. Both districts will continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow. This was the right decision and one that will save lives. Science, not politics, must drive the decision-making on when it is safe to reopen schools. No one wants to return to in person instruction more than we do."
"We’ve all seen firsthand how this pandemic has revealed and widened inequities, especially for students of color, those with disabilities, and those living in poverty. We want to get back and we will get back to schools when it’s safe to do so."
San Diego Education Association President Kisha Borden said it is clear online curriculum at the start of the fall semester has to improve on what the district was able to accomplish this spring.
"We must take this time now to continue to develop a more functional, equitable and robust system of distance learning and we are fully committed to doing so," she said. "We must also continue to fight for the resources and support we need from the federal government, not just for our schools and students but also for our communities."