Some elementary schools part of the Poway Unified School District reopened on Thursday as part of a phased reopening plan.
"On zoom you always must be on mute, so you don’t get to say anything to your friends, so it was just so fun seeing all your friends. We had time to say what we wanted to each other, so it was fun to talk to them," said C.J, a student at Sunset Hills Elementary.
The district announced last month it was bringing some elementary school students back on campus with a phased approach, with some campuses reopening for in-person learning on Oct. 1 and the rest reopening Oct. 12.
The schedule for elementary schools in the district is as follows:
Reopening Oct. 1
- Canyon View Elementary School
- Highland Ranch Elementary School
- Morning Creek Elementary School
- Painted Rock Elementary School
- Pomerado Elementary School
- Shoal Creek Elementary School
- Sundance Elementary School
- Sunset Hills Elementary School
- Turtleback Elementary
- Westwood Elementary School
Reopening Oct. 12
- Adobe Bluffs Elementary School
- Chaparral Elementary School
- Creekside Elementary School
- Deer Canyon Elementary School
- Del Sur Elementary School
- Garden Road Elementary School
- Los Penasquitos Elementary School
- Midland Elementary School
- Monterey Ridge Elementary School
- Park Village Elementary School
- Rolling Hills Elementary School
- Stone Ranch Elementary School
- Tierra Bonita Elementary School
- Valley Elementary School
- Willow Grove Elementary School
The PUSD Board of Education approved a phased plan that will see students return for in-person learning in two groups, AM and PM. You can see a sample schedule here.
For elementary school students, the district's plan (page 10) calls for five half days per week combined with asynchronous learning
The district said secondary schools will remain virtual through at least November. The only exception is Abraxas High School, which will reopen Oct. 8 with an A/B schedule.
Families at all schools have the option to keep their children fully virtual.
District students receiving special education services may have to return to campus before their school's listed reopening date, possibly as early as Sept. 24. If necessary, those families will receive separate communication, the district said.
The district board also agreed to allow small groups of middle and high school students to return on campus for targeted learning support, social-emotional groups, special education services, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, PUSD said.
While at school, students will be required to wear masks.
"Masks are good. You don’t really notice it. You’re working, it’s just there, it doesn’t really bother you that much," said C.J. "Yeah, everyone keeps them on."
Prior to the board approving the reopening plan, board president Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff said 60% of parents who participated in a survey said they wanted their children to go back for in-person learning when possible. She said the district purchased more personal protective equipment, specifically plexiglass barriers for desks that she said made families and teachers feel more comfortable.
“That was something we were pushing back on because there was a huge expense and there was a nationwide backlog on those orders, so it was going to take a long time to come in. Turns out we’ve got them, and that’s exciting," O'Connor-Ratcliff said.
School board staff recommended that the school develop traffic flow patterns for each campus and create wellness stations with assigned staff that are trained for the role.
School board staff also noted that transitioning secondary students comes with an added layer of complexity, and some students and teachers may have their entire schedules shift as a result.
"Changing schedules involves multiple layers of revision including moving students who wish to return to campus or be virtual to coordinate with teachers who have requested the same, changing teacher assignments to meet the schedule requests/needs of the students both in-person and virtual, and balancing class sizes to align to negotiated targets," the staff wrote.
Melissa Sofia, has four children, three in elementary school. She said she “jumped for joy” when she heard elementary students would be going back for in-person learning.
“We need to find a way to balance both the number and safety for preventing COVID, but at the same time really take into consideration the needs of our children and ourselves, our entire family members," she said.
Details on how to reopen secondary schools will be discussed at the board's Sept. 24 meeting.
The PUSD had planned to remain fully virtual through the 2020 school year after San Diego County was placed on the state's coronavirus monitoring list -- a metric used to determine which California counties had case rates growing out of control. Being on the monitoring list meant that many indoor services, including education, would be put on hold.
But by mid-August, San Diego's coronavirus case rate steadied and on Sept. 1, the county was officially removed from the state's monitoring list.
While the school board began drafting a plan for in-person learning, the 2020-2021 school year started on Sept. 2 with more than 36,500 students online.
PUSD operates 25 elementary schools, one elementary and middle school combination, six middle schools, one continuation high school, five comprehensive high schools, and one adult school. The District serves more than 36,000 students and is the third-largest school district in the county.
NBC 7 is tracking how all 42 school districts in San Diego County plan to tackle the 2020-2021 school year.