The San Diego Unified School District approved a plan that will allow 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.
The district held a workshop Tuesday centered on a plan for reopening local schools and opened up the floor to comments from dozens of parents.
According to the district’s presentation, the on-campus learning option consists of all day at school, five days a week. New safety precautions would include daily temperature checks, staggered arrival and dismissal times, and physical barriers in classrooms to safely separate people. The district has not yet said if face masks will be required for all students.
The virtual, distance learning option consists of four days a week of “live and pre-recorded instruction and one day to catch up on assignments.”
SDUSD said students would also be able to participate in on-site offerings like science labs, career or community college courses, special education, and physical education.
And while the plan was approved, how it will be funded has yet to be determined.
"We had to make these plans in spite of not knowing how much money we will have to cover the extra COVID-19 safety costs and not knowing exactly what public health conditions will exist in two months," SDUSD board president John Lee Evans said.
California legislators passed a budget that reverses $15 million in proposed cuts to education. SDUSD – which is the state’s second-largest district – said Tuesday this move “clears the way for a reopening of its physical facilities in the fall,” but more action is needed by the federal government so that schools can operate for the full school year.
“We appreciate the bold action taken by the legislature to reverse all spending cuts contained in the May Budget Revision,” said San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten in a press release Tuesday. “We urge Governor Newsom to sign this budget and approve a final compromise that gives schools the funds we will need to open in a safe, responsible manner this fall.”
SDUSD – along with Los Angeles Unified – are among five districts across the state opposing the proposed education cuts. The district said schools need more funding, not less, to reopen safely in these times of COVID-19.
Before the plan was approved Tuesday, district leaders shared some ideas as to the general framework.
"Every school is unique and every school has different ways of implementing that plan, but we believe it has to include the school being fully open all day, every day, and maintaining a high-quality distance learning option," said Richard Barrera, the board vice president.
In an interview with NBC 7, Superintendent Cindy Marten said each school is also going to figure out specific safety precautions to best match their individual environments.
Some families may have health concerns and want their children to learn at home while others may not. Marten said that's why there will be both online and on-campus learning options.
She stressed the district is encouraging feedback from families as to what they would like to see and a survey is being sent out this Thursday.
"What's important about the on-campus option is that it needs to be safe," she said, adding the district is following the science.
As for bus transportation, under the current guidelines children must sit at every other row near the window which fills up a quarter of a bus.
Barrera said that set-up would be cost-prohibitive and there needs to be a plan for bussing students so that all health standards are met, but perhaps with standards that are not as restrictive.
Another big topic was COVID-19 testing. Barrera said he would like coronavirus testing to happen on school campuses.
Back to funding, the district said right now it only has enough money to operate with all the new guidelines and learning options for half a school year.
Evans said the pandemic is a “national emergency that warrants a national response,” and the federal government must step in to provide additional relief for schools.
“The federal government simply cannot leave an entire generation of school students to fend for themselves in the face of this growing tragedy,” Evans added.
SDUSD said discussions are ongoing but called the legislature’s passage of a state budget “encouraging.”
“(It) puts our values into practice by approving a budget that prioritizes our students,” the district added.
Evans said while the SDUSD survey for parents goes out this week, the date for parents to decide on either on-campus or distance learning will be later in the summer – “once we outline details of the plan,” Evans told NBC 7.