2 districts reveal plans to reopen schools in mid-April

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Unified School District says it plans to reopen schools and bring back all grade levels in mid-April.

The district announced the plans Tuesday, saying they’re contingent on vaccines for teachers and San Diego County dropping back into the state’s less-restrictive Red Tier.

San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera said the district came up with an April 12 target date after being told by county officials that vaccinations would open up for school staff and other essential workers as soon as March 1.

Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, the board’s vice president, said Tuesday that, “I think it’s time for us to allow those children who do want to and their parents want to take that chance and bring them back.”

“We are doing the max we can in terms of the equipment, washing hands all of the mitigations; we’re doing the maximum we can,” she said.

Her comments during Tuesday night’s meeting followed a rally organized by some parents to get kids back on campus.

One young student even explained why she was tired of learning from home.

“The worst parts: my microphone doesn’t work, headphones die, computer battery really low,” she said.

Teachers and staff would come back the week of April 5, and students who wish to attend school in-person would return the following week. Students will be able to continue distance learning if families prefer to keep them at home, the district said. All families will be asked to share their preferences in a survey to be distributed later this month.

The announcement comes as parents have been protesting the school board’s decision to continue online schooling since the beginning of the pandemic. Some parents were skeptical of the dates presented Tuesday, saying they’ve seen reopening plans pushed back in the past.

“When my kids are sitting in a classroom, I’ll believe it. But right now, you’re not giving me any hope with these dates because they are contingent,” parent and protester Leslie Hofmeister said.

About 20 parents had the opportunity to share their opinions of the plan during a public comment period and the reviews were mixed.

“The district needs to be much more clear and specific about what metrics it is applying to reopen schools while the proposed date in April is promising it’s meaningless if we are restrained by other requirements,” parent Linda Beresford said.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria expressed appreciation for the timeline.

“I want to thank San Diego Unified for providing a clear timeline on getting kids back in the classroom and, more importantly, providing parents with some certainty,” Gloria said in a statement. “This news provides some relief to parents who have had to juggle multiple roles during the pandemic. While a hybrid schedule is still difficult for many working families, this represents a step in the right direction. I will keep working with and urging the school district officials, teachers and stakeholders to continue making progress toward getting our kids back in the classroom full time.”

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said the targeted date was a welcome relief for families.

“Getting our kids back in the classroom is one of our highest priorities and I want to commend San Diego Unified and the San Diego Education Association for reaching this agreement,” Fletcher said. “At the county, we will do everything possible to get our school staff vaccinated so our classrooms can be open to in-person learning.”

The Encinitas Union School District also revealed plans Tuesday to bring kindergarten through 6th grade students back five days per week on April 12.

“The case rates and county indicators have been increasingly optimistic as they have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in transmissions in the last few weeks. It seems evident that the red tier is imminent and rather than waiting for that particular marker, we felt strongly that all trends and data point to a safe return to 5 days per week when all necessary adjustments for changes in guidance for 4 feet distancing between student desks are met,” the district said.

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