‘Yes We Can': SDUSD Says Reopening This Summer is Possible

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There are more questions than answers about the Governor’s announcement to possibly open schools by late July or August, but it seems educators want to give it their best effort.

“Yes, we can get it done, yes we are already planning, and yes, it will be very difficult,” said San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Richard Barrera.

The San Diego Unified District is the largest school district in San Diego County with 200 schools. Barrera said many issues need to be worked out before it can reopen.

Gov. Newsom said the state is considering starting the fall school year as early as July. Would San Diego County be prepared? NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

Classrooms might have to be set up so that each student will have space to meet the social distancing guidelines.That means there would have to be fewer students in the classroom, which might mean students would share the day or the week.

"When students physically return to school campuses, it needs to be planned and deliberated with public health at the forefront of all decision-making," California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said. "We want our students to be safe and ready to learn. This must include safety supports for students and educators."

If parents start back to work, who would take care of the children on a staggered schedule, and if distance learning augments the classroom, who is going to help with that?

Another issue is safety.

“There are going to be many people needing to be reassured that it's safe for students to go back to school," Barrera said. "Educators need that reassurance too.” 

Barrera said the key to that is testing. Will it be immunity testing, or temperature checks? And then there’s money needed from the state to pull this off.

If Gov. Gavin Newsom does decide to open schools in July, it would be up to local districts to figure out how to make it happen. NBC7 education reporter Rory Devine has reaction to the governor's announcement.

So many things need to be figured out, but we will figure them out and we will be ready with a plan.

Richard Barrera SDUSD Trustee

Ultimately, the decision to reopen schools is up to individual districts.

The state's superintendent said that they were unaware Newsom would be making the remarks presented at Tuesday's meeting ahead of time but acknowledged the idea could help to reduce education loss.

"If this is going to work, there are some major questions we will have to answer. First and foremost: Can this be done in a way that protects the health and safety of our students, teachers, and school staff?" State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said in a statement.

In response to the governor's announcement on Tuesday, the California Teachers Association (CTA) said they hope the reopening is "deliberate and collaborative."

"The school closures have been hard on our students, educators, families, and communities. When students physically return to school campuses, it needs to be planned and deliberate with public health at the forefront of all decision-making.  We want our students to be safe and ready to learn. This must include safety supports for students and educators," CTA President E. Toby Boyd said in a statement.

Both Boyd and Thurmund acknowledged how school budgets have been affected by the "stay-at-home" order and how costly it may be to reopen with accommodations for health measures.

“We also must consider the fiscal implications. Social distancing in schools may require smaller class sizes, but schools are going to need additional resources to make it happen—including the possibility of hiring more teachers. Additionally, teachers and school staff will need personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies so that our schools are sanitized. We expect that some form of social distancing will be with us through the summer, so if we start school early, we need resources to make it a reality," Thurmond said.

While there are still questions left to be answered, to make reopening a reality -- whenever it may be -- Thurmond said, collaboration is key.

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