reopening schools

Tier Status Can't Keep Schools From Reopening, San Diego Judge Rules

The ruling allows local districts to move forward with their reopening plans irrespective of San Diego County's placement in the state's four-tier reopening system

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A ruling handed down Monday by a San Diego County judged cleared the way for school districts to move ahead with their campus reopening plans.

The ruling by Judge Cynthia Freeland addressed two issues: a state guideline that kept school districts from reopening until the county was two weeks into the red tier and a series of waiver denials issued by the state to the Carlsbad Unified School District, San Dieguito Union High School District, and Poway Unified School District, which applied for waivers to reopen ahead of schedule.

The Parent Association of North County San Diego, an organization of parents whose children attend school in North County, sued Gov. Gavin Newsom, other state leaders and school districts in Carlsbad, Poway, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista and San Dieguito to have all classrooms reopen.

Judge Freeland sided with the parent group, ruling it was unconstitutional for state guidance to prevent schools from reopening, and issued a temporary restraining order that will nullify the state's revised reopening framework issued earlier this year. The ruling allows local districts to move forward with their reopening plans irrespective of San Diego County's placement in the state's four-tier reopening system.

It is unclear if the ruling applies to the entire state.

The second part of the two-part ruling reverses the state's waiver denials for the Carlsbad Unified School District, San Dieguito Union High School District and Poway Unified School District.

Now that North County schools have been cleared to reopen thanks to a judge, students are back in classrooms. NBC 7’s Audra Stafford speaks to parents for their reactions.

The ruling will have an immediate impact on San Dieguito Union and Poway Unified.

SDUHSD is planning on resuming in-person instruction Tuesday.

Freeland's ruling "allows our district to implement our expanded reopening for in-person, rotating in-class instruction that begins with our one-day-a-week model immediately," SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley said.

Haley said school sites will communicate with students who are scheduled to report to campus Tuesday.

The Poway Unified School District sent a letter to families saying it was moving to a two-days per week, two-block schedule starting Monday, March 22. For the rest of this week, PUSD will continue with its one-day per week, grade-level-based, two-cohort model.

"Both our students and staff have expressed appreciation for this opportunity to build comfort and confidence around safety protocols and procedures with smaller numbers of on-campus students before bringing all grades back," the letter said in part.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been nearly a year since many students have stepped foot in a classroom. Since last March, thousands of San Diego County students have been learning remotely and some parents say the isolation of distance learning has impacted their children’s mental health and grades.

Prior to the ruling, California’s guidelines said counties that have been in the red tier for at least two weeks could resume in-person learning.

San Diego County is expected to advance to the red tier Tuesday.

Some schools were already open for in-person learning well before Monday's ruling, and that's because campuses that were reopened before San Diego County fell backward into the Purple Tier in early December were allowed to stay open.

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