San Diego County Elementary Schools Could Apply for Waiver to Return to Campus

According to the San Diego County Office of Education, elementary schools may reopen if approved for a waiver by the state

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The back-to-school season is different for the 2020-21 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. While many school districts, including San Diego Unified, have announced they will begin the school year exclusively online, that may not be the case for the county's elementary schools.

Under California state orders, San Diego County schools must implement distance learning until the county is off the state's monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

“That process is still being worked out by state and local public health,” said Music Watson, chief of staff for the county office of education.

On Wednesday morning, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the state will provide guidance on reopening but that the decision to reopen is up to individual school district and county health leaders.

“Really, every day is different, every kid is different, every class is different, and you just have to be flexible," said Kayla Sweet, an American Sign Language teacher at Helix Charter High School. "So we're all just kind of waiting and seeing, and just trying to be flexible and adjust.”

Helix Charter High School is set to begin distance learning Aug. 17. Sweet said ASL can be challenging to teach, since the language relies on the ability to see the person who is communicating

“A lot of people don't understand -- the American Sign Language grammar is on your face, and it's already difficult being a teacher if you're listening to a student’s vocal inflections and getting feedback from them that way,” said Sweet. “So, imagine trying to teach American Sign Language and your grammar is thrown out the window if there's no facial expressions.”

Despite the obstacles facing teachers, students and parents, Sweet said it's worth it to adapt to online learning until it's safe for everyone to head back to school in person.

“I still would rather leave the school year with all of the staff and students as we walked in, if it means us taking a step back and making the sacrifices to do digital learning for a little bit longer and until it's safer for everybody,” Sweet said.

A San Diego Unified School District representative said it would provide a public assessment on Aug.10 of how soon (after the first week of school) a physical return to class would be possible.

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