Online-only: San Diego city schools will not hold in-person classes to start year

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SAN DIEGO — All classes at schools in the San Diego Unified School District will be held online to start the year, Superintendent Cindy Marten said Monday, defying President Donald Trump’s demand that students return to in-person instruction.

San Diego Unified was joined by Los Angeles Unified School District in the decision, making the two largest school districts in the state online-only for at least the beginning of the academic year. In the statement, the districts acknowledged that schools have successfully reopened in some parts of the world, but said the conditions are different locally.

“One fact is clear — those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither,” according to the statement. “The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.”

The districts said planning will continue for an eventual return to in-person classes, but no timeline was provided. In the meantime, teachers will be given “expanded training in online education,” and students will receive training “to become better online learners.”

SDUSD will begin remote course work as scheduled on Aug. 31, LAUSD on Aug. 18. The school districts will continue to provide free meals for students at the current distribution stations.

The announcement drew mixed reactions from parents.

“Honestly I’m torn,” said Bethany Springs, who has two children. “We have quarantined since March 18. My kids have not left the house. We’ve gone out just for essentials really. Me and my husband, we got married on March 13, and we were both let go from our jobs on March 18.”

For Springs and her family, it has become a question of whether or not they’ll be able to pay their bills. Ssince her two kids will now be at home for an undetermined amount of time, she says her job options are extremely limited.

“If the kids are home during the day, then the only job I can take is after hours, you know after school’s done,” said Springs.

On the other hand, Springs says it would be equally concerning to send her children back to in-person learning with the risk of them getting sick.

That’s why other parents are saying they’re all for the online-only learning.

“I’m feeling very relieved,” Destiny Antonizio told FOX 5. “I was very nervous about my son going back to school, especially since I’m high risk. I didn’t want him to catch it and bring it back home to all of us here.”

Antonizio said she also doesn’t mind continuing the home-based education, adding it’s something that has actually helped her son. However, she says her son is disappointed about not being able to return to school.

“He had a busy life before this quarantine,” said Antonizio. “He had school, friend’s house and then he had baseball. He’s in little league four days a week and then with the games, so he had a constant schedule going.”

The cutback in activities has been hard on a lot of students. The school district’s announcement Monday means families will have to continue to adjust to for the time being.

“If I have to do that at home, I’m willing to do it and try my best,” Springs said. “I’m not a teacher, so it’s not going to be the greatest, but with unemployment ending, how am I supposed to pay my bills?”

Trump has been adamant that school campuses should reopen in the fall, even hinting that the federal government might withhold funding from jurisdictions that fail to return to in-person instruction.

The statement puts the burden of closed schools on the Trump Administration’s handling of the pandemic.

“Our leaders owe it to all of those impacted by the COVID-19 closures to increase the pace of their work,” according to the statement. “No one should use the delay in the reopening of classrooms as a reason to relax. The coronavirus has not taken a summer vacation, as many had hoped. Indeed, the virus has accelerated its attacks on our community.”

San Diego Unified will provide a public assessment on Aug. 10 of how soon a physical return to class might be possible. That assessment will be based on local measures of whether the virus is sufficiently under control, as well as progress on testing and federal action on funding. On the same day, San Diego Unified will outline the physical measures planned for each school to guard against the pandemic and detail the online learning program for the 2020- 21 academic year.

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