San Diego Unified, teachers lay groundwork for in-person return as cases decline

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SAN DIEGO – Students in the San Diego Unified School District could be back in the classroom, possibly as soon as this school year, as the county’s COVID-19 metrics improve.

The San Diego Unified School District’s Education Center at 4100 Normal St. in San Diego, Calif.

District officials and local teachers announced Thursday a framework to reopen schools for in-person instruction with a commitment to return for the fall. But San Diego Unified still plans to offer an online option for families not ready to come back to campus, the district and the San Diego Education Association said in a joint news release.

Some schools also could reopen in some form yet this year, though it’s dependent on “the pace of the vaccine rollout and case-rates reductions,” they said in the release.

“We will continue to follow the science and take all measures to protect our community from this deadly disease,” they said, adding that, “We will not cut corners on safety.”

Several local districts already have rolled out plans for at least some of their students to return to the classroom in the coming weeks. This week, the Oceanside Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously for a plan sending students in grades K-5 back to campuses March 15 in a hybrid model with half days spent learning in-person.

On Thursday, Alpine Union Superintendent Rich Newman announced the district was moving into the third phase of its reopening plan, which allows all students to attend classes in-person four days a week.

Under the plan, Wednesdays remain a distance learning day, allowing staff adequate time to deep clean campuses.

“We know our students will be thrilled to see one another again and we are truly excited to see all of our students back on campus,” Newman said in a letter to families.

San Diego Unified officials and teachers are “confident” in committing to a fall in-person reopening, citing the Biden administration’s actions to “provide the necessary resources for schools to operate safely.”

They’re also calling on the state to “move more quickly” in getting the vaccine to teachers.

“While educators and school leaders also said lower case rates are critical to reopening safely, they plan to continue following research on how vaccine proliferation impacts the spread of the virus,” they said.

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