Poway Unified plans to suspend on-campus learning

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POWAY, Calif. – Students in the Poway Unified School District won’t return to in-person learning after winter break as expected.

District leaders plan to suspend on-campus learning for a two-week period following the holiday break. The decision was made in an effort to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus. District leaders also pointed to a shortage in staffing, partly because of mandatory quarantines.

“While we have no evidence of any COVID outbreaks on any of our school campuses, due to the health and safety measures we have in place, we are experiencing severe staffing shortages at many of our school sites following Thanksgiving break,” the district said. “Increasing numbers of staff have required medical accommodations and have had to quarantine upon positive test results or close contact.”

The district said all students will shift to online learning from Jan. 4 to 15. ESS programs and full-day preschool programs will remain open for childcare. On-campus learning is expected to resume Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

The board will consider the measure at their Dec. 17 meeting.

Full letter from the district:

Dear PUSD,

Pending Board Approval at the Thursday, December 17 meeting, PUSD will be making the difficult but prudent recommendation to temporarily suspend on-campus learning for ALL PUSD students at ALL PUSD schools for a two-week period following winter break: January 4 through January 15, 2021. During these two weeks, all students will learn from home virtually with their existing teachers. ESS Programs as well as full-day preschool programs will remain open for childcare. On-campus learning will resume Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

The decision to suspend on-campus learning temporarily is to help minimize the spread of any illnesses and reduce the impact of quarantining due to positive cases within our shared PUSD community. While we have no evidence of any COVID outbreaks on any of our school campuses due to the health and safety measures we have in place, we are experiencing severe staffing shortages at many of our school sites following Thanksgiving break. Increasing numbers of staff have required medical accommodations and have had to quarantine upon positive test results or close contact.

Our system is already stretched to the limit, and cannot sustain an influx of post-holiday travel and gathering-related illnesses and quarantines. With compounding staff shortages following winter break, we would be unable to provide the amount of substitutes needed to effectively run our in-person schools and classrooms. Additionally, the operational efficiency of our schools would be impacted, if new cases approached a level that jeopardized our ability to provide the wellness checks and safety management designed to keep our staff and students safe. We are trying to proactively prevent such a dire scenario, which has already forced neighboring districts to shut down with little notice to their staff and families.

We also believe this two-week “reset” will give us the best opportunity to keep our schools open in the new year, avoiding disruptive and repeated quarantines. But we need your help! The safe operation of our schools cannot continue without our staff and families’ cooperation. This temporary suspension of in-person learning will be in vain without our staff and families striving to reduce their risk of exposure over the next several weeks. During winter break and afterward, we ask that you help in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses by wearing a face covering, keeping a safe distance from others, minimize close contacts and gatherings, and remember to wash your hands frequently. If you or your family is considering travel at this time or planning a trip, please be aware of California’s travel advisory and review this important information from the CDC. We appreciate your support in reducing exposure for our students and staff.

We understand the impact this decision will have on our staff and families, and how challenging this school year has been for everyone. We want to thank our staff who have been working tirelessly to support learning and for your flexibility during this pandemic. We would also like to thank all of our students and our families for your patience and trust as we continue navigating uncharted waters together. We will provide additional information following this Thursday’s Board meeting.

The Poway Unified School District

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