County COVID-19 infections must slow before local schools can have in-person classes, state says

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SAN DIEGO – Elementary schools around the San Diego area now can consider holding in-person classes if the county can bring down its COVID-19 infection rate.

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, if the schools are in counties that meet certain health standards, then they can apply for waivers.

“I am very excited about that! I haven’t heard that,” said third-grader Zoey Nystrom, who attends La Jolla Elementary. “When my mom said school wasn’t coming back, I literally cried. I want to go back so bad.”

Nystrom met up with friends Tuesday at a nearby park. He said it is a rare occasion to see friends in person.


“I want to live like there’s a social life where you can hug people and go to school and learn,” she added.

Nystrom may get that opportunity sooner than she expected. Just a month after requiring distance learning in schools, Newsom rolled out a health waiver system Monday that could allow some elementary schools to reopen for in-person classes.

According to the state’s website, schools would have to meet a number of requirements, including developing a plan for cleaning and disinfection, requiring face coverings and protective gear, testing for students and staff, and triggers for switching back to distance learning if an outbreak happens.

“The big issue is, can we do it safely,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobido of the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

He said the students in kindergarten through sixth grade in his district don’t qualify because Chula Vista has one of the highest positive rates for COVID-19 in the county.  The state guidelines require schools in counties that are on the watchlist to log 14 consecutive days of decline in positive tests before they can apply.

“We did a survey and had over 16,000 responses, and a third of our parents said they will keep their kids home,” Escobido added.

FOX 5 called a handful of districts Tuesday, none had immediate plans to apply for the health waiver.

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