What's the Plan This Fall for Your Child's School District in San Diego?

A guide to how school districts in San Diego County plan to continue learning this fall as the coronavirus pandemic rages on

NBCUniversal, Inc.

UPDATE: Editor's Note
On Aug. 13, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said 48 local elementary schools had applied for the waiver to reopen the campuses for in-person learning. Fletcher said those applications would be first reviewed by county public health experts. After that, they would be sent off to the state for further review and guidance. If the county doesn’t hear back from the state in three days, then Fletcher said those applications would be approved. The county said it would be posting the list of schools that have applied daily here. You can also see the list, as of Aug. 13, below:

UPDATE: Editor's Note
On Aug. 3, 2020, California health officials released guidelines for elementary schools (K-6) to seek waivers that would allow them to offer in-person classroom instruction. However, with those guidelines came recommendations that local health officials not even consider that option in counties with the highest rates of coronavirus infection.

The state Department of Public Health released the guidelines for public, private and charter schools seeking permission from local health officers to resume in-person instruction if they are located in one of 38 counties that remain on a state watch list because of troubling COVID-19 increases. San Diego County is one of the 38, and together those counties contain most of the state’s population.

The waivers only apply for kindergarten to sixth grade because, according to health officials, students in that age range are less likely than older children to become infected or transmit coronavirus.

The state’s guidelines say, in part, that schools seeking waivers must have support from labor, parent and community organizations. Reopening plans must cover a raft of safety issues, from cleaning and disinfecting, to health screenings, social distancing and mask-wearing for staff and students. The ability to keep children in “small, stable” groups should be one qualification, according to the guidelines. Read more about the school waivers here.

There are 23 elementary school districts in San Diego County. We will track updates on those districts, should any of them apply for the waiver.

Update: Editor's Note
On July 17, 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic surged, California Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out strict guidelines for school reopenings that would make it unlikely the vast majority of districts would have in-person classroom instruction in the fall. Newsom’s new guidelines mandate that public schools in California counties that are on a monitoring list for rising coronavirus infections cannot hold in-person classes and will have to meet strict criteria for reopening. This includes San Diego County, which was placed on the state's monitoring list at the beginning of July 2020. The state rules also include a mandate that students above 2nd grade and all staff wear masks in school.

So, for now, all districts in San Diego County will begin the school year via distance/virtual learning, as mandated by the state. Most districts plan to offer a continued online learning option for students, even once campuses are able to reopen for in-person instruction.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in San Diego County, school districts have been mulling over how to continue classes for students this fall. We’re keeping a running guide here on those plans, which, for now, will rely on distance and virtual learning. Past plans (before Newsom's July 17 announcement) for some local school districts included options for on-campus and hybrid learning.

NBC 7 is keeping track of all 42 school districts in the county; we will update this guide as county restrictions change and as we hear back from individual school districts.

As California’s schools work out their reopening plans, they will need to follow the state’s guidelines for safely reopening. You can read California’s entire “Stronger Together” guide to safely reopening schools here.

The California Department of Education also offers guidance and resources on distance learning here, geared toward teachers and families of students in grades K-12.

Unified School Districts

Bonsall Unified School District
After surveying parents, the BUSD Reopening School Task Force has developed a reopening plan for schools in this district. The first day of school is set for Aug. 24. Parents can get COVID-19 updates for BUSD here.

Borrego Springs Unified School District
On July 6, the district published its initial reopening plan, which included in-person classes, the staff wearing face masks and gloves, and student health screenings each day. After Newsom's July 17 decision, BSUSD shifted to a distance learning model for the start of the school year. The first day of school is set for Aug. 31. "We are still committed to physically reopening our schools for our students when it is safe to do so. 

Carlsbad Unified School District
The Carlsbad Unified School District sent a note to parents on Aug. 7 outlining a few key steps to set up their students for distance learning, which will continue for at least four weeks after the start of school on Aug. 25. “While this will not be the start to the school year anyone hoped for, I am confident that our teachers and staff are ready to provide an excellent learning experience for your students,” wrote Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill.

Coronado Unified School District
Coronado Unified School District’s distance learning plan can be read here. School starts on Aug. 27.

Mountain Empire Unified School District
Over the summer, the district's superintendent told families and staff that school officials were "taking this time to gather and weigh community input in order to develop a safe and thoughtful return plan." The MEUSD released this slide show of its initial 2020-2021 reopening plan here. On Aug. 3, MEUSD Superintendent Dr. Kathy Granger sent a note to families saying the school year – through at least the first quarter – would begin with enhanced distance learning. “The District will determine, based on public health guidelines from the state and county, whether or not we will return to in-person classes for the second quarter by mid-September,” the note said.“We understand that this is not ideal for many in our community; the safety of our students and staff is our first responsibility.” The first day of school is Aug. 19; the first quarter ends on Oct. 9.

Oceanside Unified School District
Information about OUSD’s virtual learning program can be found here, while resourced for parents are available here. Before Newsom’s July 17 announcement, this district had outlined three options for its reopening: traditional classes, a hybrid option including online and in-class learning, and an option that is exclusively virtual. That initial plan is laid out here.

Poway Unified School District
The Poway Unified School District said on Aug. 26 that after the removal of San Diego County from the state's monitoring list, the district will be looking into reopening in-person instruction at their Sept. 10 board meeting. At the board meeting, PUSD said the first elementary schools would reopen on Oct. 1 followed by the remaining elementary schools two weeks later. Students would be split into AM and PM groups to ensure social distancing and would be required to wear face masks. Meanwhile, some middle and high school students in specialized groups as well as special education groups would be able to return to campus learning as well. The board will determine what high school reopenings will look like at their Sept. 24 board meeting. The first day of school for Poway Unified was originally scheduled for Aug. 19, but the district changed that date to Sept. 2. At the start, classes remained fully online.

The Poway Unified School District has approved a phased reopening plan so that students can return to in-person classes sooner than expected. NBC 7's Audra Stafford shares details.

Ramona Unified School District
Superintendent Theresa Grace sent this letter to RUSD families on Aug. 4 outlining the plans for the start of the school year. The district outlined three options: short-term distance learning, which all students will partake in when school starts on Sept. 1; long-term distance learning (for grades TK-6, all year); alternative school option, via a program from Mountain Valley Academy. The RUSD’s COVID-19 resource page for parents and students is available here.

San Diego Unified School District
San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) – one of the two largest school districts in California (along with Los Angeles Unified) – said it will not reopen campuses for in-person learning this fall. This means students will continue distance learning at home when the school year starts on Aug. 31. The district unveiled its plan for the fall on July 30, breaking down exactly what the district's distance learning option would look like for students.

The new online learning plan includes:

  • A six-hour school day with customized learning experiences for each K-12 student
  • All students will have daily, live interaction with their teachers via video conferencing
  • Custom learning experiences will be based on student needs and will include daily live, online instruction (up to three hours), independent learning (at least two hours), working with other students in small groups or participating in educator office hours (at least one hour)
  • All Elementary students will receive instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and the arts
  • Students will receive grades to measure their progress

SDUSD said the conversations resulted in an agreement signed Thursday by the school district and San Diego Education Association. Some highlights of the agreement with educators include:

  • Teachers and non-classroom educators will continue to work a full, standard workday
  • Educators will hold office hours, organize small-group instruction and provide students with feedback on their learning
  • Educators will have added flexibility to account for the challenges of online instruction
  • Educator growth and progress will be supported

The SDUSD includes 113 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 27 high schools, 25 charter schools, 10 alternative schools, and 4 other schools in San Diego. In all, the largest school district in San Diego County serves 121,000 students.

On Aug. 10, the SDUSD unveiled its strict criteria for reopening campuses in-person, based on input from a team of scientists at UC San Diego. The district said schools would not reopen any time soon and when they do, it will be a slow, deliberate, and phased process.

On Aug. 26, after San Diego County was taken off the state's watchlist, SDUSD said it would allow its most vulnerable elementary school students, like those with special needs or experiencing homelessness, to start in-school learning as early as the third week of September.

The district has set its reopening criteria even stricter than the county requires.

San Marcos Unified School District
A back-to-school reopening update from Superintendent Carmen Garcia was posted on the district’s website on July 22 outlining how the SMUSD would tackle remote instruction. The first day of school is Aug. 18.

Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District
The VCPUSD Superintendent Ron McCowan posted a video update on the district’s website about how the school year would begin via distance learning and this letter. This district plans to stay in virtual learning mode through at least Sept. 25, and return to campus when it is safe to do so. The first day of school is Aug. 25.

Vista Unified School District
VUSD’s school reopening plan was updated on Aug. 3 and is outlined here. It includes two models of learning: Vista Classic and Vista Virtual. The latter option will be the way all students begin the school year on Sept. 8. The Vista Classic – VUSD’s in-person learning model – will be available to students once the health order is lifted. The district hopes to return to in-person instruction by about Oct. 20 for families that opted for the Vista Classic option.

Warner Unified School District
WUSD’s reopening plan is available here.  Superintendent Dave MacLeod also put together this letter for families on July 22. The first day of school is Aug. 12.

High School Districts

Escondido Union High School District
Two learning models were approved by the school board on July 14: Online Independent Study Via Edgenuity -- a full-time distance-learning plan -- and a 2-Day Blended Model Distance Learning Schedule, which will entail distance learning for all students on Mondays as well as two other days of the week, dependent upon which of six subgroups to which they are assigned. However, the board voted to begin the school year for both models via virtual learning only. EUHSD said online learning will continue through the district's first grading period -- Sept. 25 -- and, at that point, the district will revisit both models and decide how to move forward from there. EUHSD families can get the latest updates on the 2020-2021 school year here. The first day of school is Aug. 25.

Fallbrook Union High School District
Fallbrook Union High School District has published its reopening plan here.

Grossmont Union High School District
GUHSD returned to school on Aug. 10, via distance learning. The district is basing its 2020-2021 school year plan on this Roadmap for Reopening, which will move students from level to level, depending on what is deemed safe for campuses based on county public health rules. For now, the Roadmap is at level 1, which is all distance learning for all students across GUHSD. Following the governor’s announcement about California schools on July 17, GUHSD Superintendent Theresa Kemper sent a note to parents confirming all schools in her district would begin the school year at Level 1. Kemper said GUHSD would continue preparations to eventually – when it is safe – move all schools to Level 2, with students on campus one day a week. After an evaluation of health conditions, processes, and procedures after 15-20 school days, schools could possibly move to Level 3, and so on. Kemper said the ultimate goal is to “reach Level 5, with all students on campus.”

Julian Union High School District
JUHSD starts the school year on Aug. 11 with virtual classes, per health orders. Before Newsom's announcement on July 17, the district had released its reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year here. It includes six key elements: Good Hygiene Practices (frequent hand washing and use of sanitizer, face masks are encouraged); Health Checks (no-touch temp screenings); Welcoming Campus (mental health check-ins); Clean Environment (regular disinfection of campuses); Communication (prompt notification of staff and students if there’s exposure); Limit Sharing. JUHSD would block the schedule to reduce movement around campuses and limit class sizes to 15 to 18 students.

San Dieguito Union High School District
San Dieguito's distance learning program can be found here. The school year begins on Aug. 25. At a special board meeting on July 30, the Board of Trustees voted to run the district's distance learning model for the entirety of the first quarter of the 2020-2021 academic year to provide stability for students.

Sweetwater Union High School District
Aug. 3
was the first day of school for the Sweetwater Union High School District. The district said at the end of July that it planned on beginning the school year with online learning. That will continue through at least Oct. 2, despite San Diego County being removed from the state's watchlist, which allows in-person instruction again for K-12 schools. More details are expected before Sept. 21. For online learning, students will have three 90-minute lessons a day, which will each include virtual interactions with teachers and that the district's online plan will be implemented until at least mid-October, regardless of whether the county remains on the state's monitoring list. District leaders will reassess conditions then to decide whether to start transitioning back to the classroom. To read more about SUHSD's first day of school, click here.

It’s the first day of school for Sweetwater Union High School Students but rather than head back to class, they’ll continue with online learning.

Elementary School Districts

Alpine Union School District
Distance learning for this district begins on Aug. 24. The district's COVID-19 updates can be found here. Eventually, AUSD wants to offer a phase 2 hybrid learning model to students (in-person learning two days a week, three days of distance learning) and then phase 3, which would be a full return to in-person learning Tuesday through Friday, and distance learning on Monday.

Cajon Valley Union School District
In a July 27 letter to families, the CVUSD outlined its plans to start the school year via distance learning. The first day of class is Aug. 19. COVID-19 updates for this district can be found here.

Cardiff School District
The district sent an update to families on Aug. 1 that said the school year would begin with distance learning "with the anticipation of transitioning to an in-person learning model when public health conditions allow." School starts on Aug. 25.

Chula Vista Elementary District
Superintendent Francisco Escobedo sent a July 29 update to CVED families detailing the distance learning plans for his district. “We share in the governor’s belief that ‘Learning is non-negotiable,’ and that school districts must provide meaningful education in the midst of the pandemic,” Escobedo’s note read, in part. The district’s COVID-19 resource center is available online here. The first day of school is Aug. 31.

Dehesa School District
Dehesa School District’s reopening letter was posted on July 20. Virtual classes begin on Aug. 20 (with orientations in the days leading up to the start of the school year).

Del Mar Union School District
DMUSD’s safe reopening plan is available here, as well as an FAQ sheet. Prior to Newsom’s announcement, the district planned to offer both in-person instruction and distance learning. The first day of school is Aug. 24.

Encinitas Union School District
An updated letter to EUSD families was posted on Aug. 7, confirming a virtual start to the school year. The first day of school is Aug. 17.

Escondido Union School District
The district had approved two models to get students back in the classroom over the summer. Like most districts in San Diego County, EUSD families were asked to participate in a survey about students returning to school. The EUSD decided to begin its school year with two learning models: full distance e-learning and hybrid learning, although hybrid learning would be implemented virtually at least through Sept. 25 due to the public health order (approved on July 16). The board approved the district’s request to postpone the start of the school year to Aug. 25 (two weeks later than the original Aug. 11 start date). The EUSD serves more than 15,500 students across 23 schools in Escondido.

Fallbrook Union Elementary School District
FUESD’s reopening plans are available here. Virtual learning is the way the school year will start on Aug. 17, with goals to offer in-person instruction on campuses when it is safe to do so. Before Newsom’s announcement, FUESD had laid out its reopening plans via this presentation.

Jamul-Dulzura Union School District
Superintendent Liz Bystedt posted an update on the JDUSD website on Aug. 10 outlining the distance learning plan for the start of the school year. “I do look forward to the time that it is safe to bring back students, to hear their laughter in the hallways, and to be able to walk into classrooms and sit down and have a face-to-face conversation,” she wrote. The first day of school is Aug. 17.

Julian Union School District
The JUSD posted an update to its website on July 22 confirming that distance learning would be the way the school year would begin on Aug. 11. “Our campus and staff and ready to reopen when the time comes,” the note read, in part.

La Mesa Spring-Valley School District
LMSVSD Superintendent David Feliciano sent a letter to parents on July 15, saying the district is awaiting guidance from public health officials on “whether or not it is advisable to reopen our campuses in August.” At the time, Feliciano said his district had been planning simultaneously for in-person instruction, online learning and a combination of the two. “No matter what we are ultimately able to do, we will be ready,” the superintendent added. After Newsom’s announcement, the district shifted to a distance learning plan – at least for the start of the school year. The first day of school is Aug. 27.

Lakeside Union School District
The district’s reopening plans are available here. Before Newsom’s July 17 announcement, the LUSD superintendent had said on July 9 that the district planned to start the school year with “in-person learning for all who desire to return” to campuses. A distance learning option was also part of the plan – and will now be the route this district takes, for now, like all others. The first day of school is Aug. 20.

Lemon Grove School District
Distance learning resources for this district can be found here. The school year starts on Aug. 26.

National School District
The district’s safe reopening plan can be found here. Aug. 24 is the first day of school.

San Pasqual Union School District
The first day of school is set for Aug. 19, but it is unclear what instruction will look like. NBC 7 has reached out to the district for details.

Rancho Santa Fe School District
Prior to Newsom’s announcement, the RSFSD had announced families would be able to select from options of voluntary distance learning or in-school classrooms, where desks would be socially-distanced, as well as socially-distanced outdoor seating and zones on campuses to keep children separated. Now, distance learning is the route due to public health orders. Distance learning resources are available here. School starts on Aug. 24.

San Pasqual Union School District
SPUSD principal and superintendent Mark Burroughs posted a July 30 update here outlining the district’s plans. Burroughs talked about the waiver process and how his district is interested in applying. “At this time, we have received permission to reopen our preschool under the county’s childcare guidelines, including the ‘podding’ of students in small groups,” he wrote. School starts on Aug. 19. The SPUSD, which is in Escondido, is a 100-year-old, one-school district born out of a 2-room schoolhouse. Today, the 27-acre campus – still known as “The Little School in the Valley” features 29 classrooms.

San Ysidro School District
The school year will start on Aug. 17 with distance learning, as outlined in this letter from SYSD superintendent Gina A. Potter. Distance learning will continue through at least the end of September. Starting in October, the district will provide some in-person services for specialized groups, like optional virtual tutoring, possible limited childcare, and support for more vulnerable populations of students such as special education. The district's third phase will allow provide two options: distance learning or a blended learning program but no target date has been identified. More than 1,500 Chromebooks have been distributed to students districtwide, and students were able to keep their Chromebooks through summer in order to participate in the district’s summer reading program. Over the summer, the district said it ordered an additional 3,788 Chromebooks that would be made available to students who may not have a device when the new school year begins. The district is working with the San Diego County Office of Education’s technology department to provide any necessary internet service options to families that need access in the fall.

Santee School District
The Santee School District had come up with a plan reopen all its schools “every day, for every child” prior to Newsom’s announcement. On July 23, the new plan was released to reflect that the SDS would start its school year on Aug. 19 with distance learning for every child. Updates will be posted on the district’s website as they become available.

Solana Beach School District
The Solana Beach School District’s reopening plan – with two instructional models, presented on July 23 – can be seen in full here. Regardless on which model families choose for their students, the district will begin its school year on Aug. 25 with online learning, superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said in this note.

South Bay Union School District
School starts on Aug. 31 in distance learning mode. Updates can be found here.

Spencer Valley School District
It is unclear what this district’s plans are for the 2020-2021 school year. The SVSD website is available here.

Vallecitos School District
Distance learning updates are available on the VSD’s website here. The first day of school begins at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 20.

Contact Us