San Diego Unified School District is welcoming its students back to the classroom Monday, but not without new COVID-19 policies. The district announced new safety measures Thursday.
Some SDUSD parents told NBC 7 they had hoped to see stricter protocols in place, while others said they’re pulling their students from in-person learning because of the added COVID-19 policies. Nonetheless, SDUSD Board President, Richard Barrera, said he hopes the new practices keep COVID-19 cases low and attendance high.
“All of these layers of strategies, again; ventilation of classrooms, masking, testing, cleaning, vaccination for our students 12 years old and older. These are the strategies that have proved effective to stop the virus from spreading on our campuses,” Barrera said during a Zoom interview with NBC 7 on Friday.
The outdoor masking policy was reintroduced for the school year. Barrera said the policy was implemented last Spring and expects returning students to be familiar with the protocol.
“If a student is in contact with someone who tests positive [for COVID-19], but the student is wearing a mask during that contact, we can actually keep that student at school rather than needing to send them home,” explained Barrera.
He said the rule is part of the district’s plan to limit unnecessary quarantines, which has happened at neighboring districts, who’ve returned to campus.
“A lot of students are being sent home, not because they themselves are positive for COVID, but because they’ve been in close contact [with someone who has COVID]," he said.
A new testing program was also adopted Thursday night. Barrera said it’s designed to test students who may have been exposed to the virus or are showing symptoms. In addition, it will help lower the risk of outbreaks.
“We’re also wanting to do regular, what people call ‘surveillance testing’, as an added precaution,” said Barrera.
Some parents told NBC 7, for the most part, they are pleased with the added measures.
“I think we frankly wanted more, and I think it’s a happy medium. My preschooler has to test negative before she can even start next month, we had sort of hoped for that baseline testing that we are seeing in other districts, but we’re happy with this,” said Lisa Delano-Wood, Ph.D., co-founder of Californians for Safe Schools.
Delano-Wood is an SDUSD mother of two. One of her children is expected to begin 5th grade Monday. She said she’s a supporter of the district's outdoor mask mandate and testing program.
“There is no way I’d send her to a place where masks are optional…so we’re really glad that these protocols have been put in place,” said Delano-Wood.
Other parents, like Melissa Grace, said she’s no longer sending her 7th-grade student to in-person instruction because of the protocols.
“Ultimately what pushed it over the edge was the additional masking outside and come to find out this new testing policy. It’s just too much. My daughter doesn’t need to go to school in a hospital,” said Grace.
Grace said her daughter was prepared to go back to school Monday, but she’s pivoting back to at-home learning. She said her daughter is asthmatic – and that masking up for extended hours is out of the question.
“If SDUSD implemented mask choice, that would be something we would consider, otherwise I have to do what’s best for my daughter,” explained Grace.
Barrera said the district expects about 90% of students back in the classroom when compared to pre-pandemic registration numbers.
“Our goal is to make sure everyone is safe at school and keep people at school,” said Barrera.
Optional COVID-19 testing will begin Monday. Tests are being done in collaboration with UCSD. Barrera asked parents to opt into the program online.