San Diego Unified ‘fired up’ to have students back on campus

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SAN DIEGO – Tens of thousands of students, including many in San Diego’s largest school district, returned to campus Monday to begin in-person learning for the first time in more than a year.

All students in the San Diego Unified School District now have the option of attending classes in person as part of an on-site/online hybrid model, favored by a majority of parents in a survey released earlier this year. They also can continue their studies online, though those doing exclusively distance learning now are in the minority, district officials say.

Roughly 50,000 students were expected to return to San Diego Unified classrooms on Monday.

“I’ve got to be honest: the first day back was amazing,” Mira Mesa High School principal Jeff Sabins said. “We’re super fired up to see the students coming back through the doors.”

According to the district, students will have a maximum of three classes per day and will rotate into classrooms. Students are still wearing masks and the district has implemented measures to maintain social distancing in its buildings.

UC San Diego also is assisting in the reopening process by testing students for COVID-19.

“We’ve got regular COVID testing that’s available on all of our campuses, every two weeks at elementary and middle schools and every week at high schools,” SDUSD Board President Richard Barrera said. “Please take advantage of that. The best way to keep your students safe, the best way to keep everybody safe is doing that regular testing.”

Other districts, including the San Ysidro and Chula Vista Elementary school districts, brought students back in a similar hybrid model.

Lakeside Union School District is allowing transitional kindergarten through fifth grade students to return to schools using a hybrid model while pre-kindergarten through second-grade students can return to Lemon Grove School District campuses.

Cajon Valley School District resumed full-time in-person learning Monday, while still providing an option for hesitant families to remain online.

Sweetwater Union High School District is prioritizing students with disabilities or those struggling with distance learning back for in-person teaching, along with seniors who opted in.

A little more than 5,000 students have opted to return to in-person learning, interim Superintendent Moises Aguirre said.

The San Dieguito Union High School District is expanding in-person learning from two to four days a week. Escondido Union High School District is allowing freshmen to join seniors for two days a week in-person.

At Golden Hill Elementary School, principal Steve Elizondo said the community did “an awesome job” on the first day back. Noting that some may feel mixed emotions, Elizondo encouraged parents to foster positive habits with their children such as eating regular meals, getting a good night’s sleep and spending time with them as they transition back into the classroom.

But being able to return to a more normal schedule also “puts a lot of people at ease,” Sabins said.

“It puts a lot of families at ease,” he said. “Definitely puts the administration at ease knowing that there is a group of professionals out there that are helping us and partnering with us in that way.”

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