San Diego County school districts are trying to adapt to ever-changing calls by health officials while planning students’ return to school as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to fluctuate locally.
For weeks now, the upcoming school year has been a hot topic of discussion as parents weigh the option of sending their children back to school or opt for digital learning as the virus continues to rage.
The county reported on Tuesday 578 new cases of the novel coronavirus out of 5,530 tests for a 10% positive rate – the first time in months local cases reached double digits.
Regardless of the numbers, President Donald Trump urged state and local leaders to reopen schools, saying officials who have decided to keep them closed are doing so for political gain rather than the safety of their residents.
“It’s very important. It’s very important for our country,” the president said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It’s very important for the wellbeing of the student and the parents so we’re going to be putting a lot of pressure to open the schools in the fall.”
Locally, several school districts have revealed their plans to reopen.
Carlsbad Unified School District announced it intends to start school on Aug. 25, with plans to open campuses that will have safety protocols put in place. The North County school district said it would give the option of 100% distance learning for students who aren’t ready to go back.
Sweetwater Union High School District students are scheduled to go back to school on Aug. 3 with virtual learning through the end of the month as the spread of the virus is monitored.
The South Bay has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with National City taking the most impact.
As for San Diego Unified School District, it plans to begin the new school year on Aug. 31 with plans to reopen campuses, have distance learning and hybrid learning. SDUSD Board vice-president Richard Barrera told NBC 7 that the district’s plans may be in jeopardy if the current, concerning trend of the coronavirus continues.
"Our primary focus is on the health and safety of students and staff,” he said. “We need to see a downward trajectory of COVID infections, hospitalizations, etc., before we can reopen safely.”
The San Diego Education Association (SDEA), a local union that represents teachers, released details on their proposal to safely get educators back into classrooms. The bargaining team met with SDUSD to discuss their demands as the scheduled Aug. 31 start date looms.
For in-person learning to begin, the SDEA is asking for the following conditions to be met first:
- “A downward trajectory, or near zero incidences, of documented cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rates for at least 14 days in local communities;”
- Frequent testing of students, staff and when necessary, parents;
- Fully funded prevention measures.