Parents and students hoping to return to school campuses will have to wait until next year for the San Diego Unified School District to bring "large numbers of students on campus in January for in-person learning," according to a news release the district sent out Tuesday morning.
District leaders presented details of Phase 2's implementation at Gage Elementary School at noon.
Phase 2 would begin Jan. 4, after winter break, school officials said. In Phase 2, any family will have the option of remaining on distance learning, said John Lee Evans, San Diego Board of Education president.
"Phase 2 would then grow to include middle and high school students, on Jan. 25, to coincide with the start of the third quarter," the district said in the release.
"But in both cases, families will have the option of distance learning if the students or family members are medically fragile," Evans said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The shift to the district's next phase of its reopening plan is dependent on virus cases in the region. District leaders said on Tuesday that if San Diego County were to be demoted to Tier 1, also known as the Purple Tier, it would interrupt the district's plan to move forward.
"We will not hesitate to make any changes in this plan we deem necessary for the health and safety of our students, staff and community," Evans said in a statement.
Board Vice President Richard Barrera echoed those sentiments during Tuesday's press conference.
“We actually anticipate that San Diego County will move into the Purple Tier at some time in the next few weeks," Barrera said. "We know that once the county moves into the Purple Tier, we can continue with our Phase 1 approach but what we cannot do is move them into Phase 2 and the subsequent phases.”
Superintendent Cindy Marten said that so far, the health measures and precautions the district has adopted have worked well.
“The safety precautions put in place at schools … appear to be working," Marten was quoted as saying. "So far, we have had zero documented outbreaks of COVID-19 and zero documented cases of transmission on campus, as determined by the County Office of Public Health. Exactly two weeks into Phase 1, we are encouraged.”
Last week, California’s second-largest school district released details on what Phase 2 entails – and it includes kindergarten to 5th grade students returning to campus four days a week on an alternating hybrid schedule to allow for more social distancing.
After consulting with a panel of University of California San Diego doctors and scientists on how to develop their reopening plan, district leaders announced the timeline for the second phase of their plan.
Already vulnerable students, such as those who have special needs or who have endured significant challenges while distance learning, returned to class under appointments as part of Phase 1.
Some parents of students in the district rallied in the afternoon outside district headquarters on Normal Street, with many of those in attendance favoring an earlier return to classrooms.
"There's definitely a risk when you send kids to school when a virus is going on, but I don't believe the risk is great enough to keep our doors closed," said parent Leslie Hofmeister.
School board member Richard Barrera understood the desire to reopen but said the dangers of doing so had to be addressed.
"I don’t think anybody who is saying, 'reopen schools now,' is going to be thrilled with the fact we're saying it’s going to be after winter break," Barrera said. "We understand how frustrating it is for all parents. We know there are many who say this is frustrating, but I’d rather know my kids are safe."