SAN DIEGO, CA (KGTV) -- A debate is unfolding across the country, and right here in San Diego over how and when to reopen schools during this pandemic.
With the new school year is quickly approaching, and the number of coronavirus cases continuing to surge locally, many teachers are left with concerns about opening their classrooms.
The California Teachers Association (CTA), one of the largest teachers unions, urging state lawmakers to hold off reopening schools until it is proven to be safe enough.
"It is not reasonable for us to think that it’s safe for us to go back to schools," said E. Toby Boyd, the president of CTA who heard from teachers across the state. "We have to look at what is being mentioned in terms of the science, the facts, and how the disease is being spread.
"People are very afraid, very concerned because they either have underlying health conditions or someone in their household does," said Kisha Borden, the president of the San Diego Education Association (SDEA).
"I'm hearing from educators of all ages who are very concerned about being put into an enclosed space, their classroom, with 25 to 30 children without the proper protocols in place."
The San Diego Unified School District will start the 2020-2021 school year on Aug. 31 with an option of in-person or online distance learning.
But, Borden said before teachers return, they have some demands.
"We're asking for at least a decline in cases over 14 days so that we're not bringing back large groups of people during a time when we're seeing an increase in cases," she said.
The union would also like to see widespread, accessible, and frequent COVID-19 testing of students, staff, and parents when necessary, and fully-funded doctor recommended prevention measures.
The district has listened to the union's concerns, and Borden said, after the latest meeting, she's feeling hopeful.
"I'm encouraged, the last statement that came from the district said that they'd like to meet with health professionals, they'd like to meet with public safety experts and really come up with clear medically proven guidelines and timelines around what is going to be necessary to bring students and staff back into our classrooms," she said.
SDEA sent ABC 10News the following statement
"As we continue to work together to plan for the 2020-2021 school year, the first priority for educators and administrators continues to be the health and safety of our students, staff, families, and community.
We note with alarm the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases throughout California. Therefore, we want to take this opportunity to affirm that we will only resume on-site learning when it is safe to do so. The decision to resume on-site learning will be made only after extensive conversations and collaboration with public health officials, health experts, our educators, staff, and administrators. Together, we will provide for a safe and educationally enriching return to student learning, whether online or in person, on Aug. 31, 2020."
Borden said that although it may not be ideal for working parents, online distance learning is the safest thing to do if cases continue to rise.
"If we are going to continue distance learning, we, the teachers, the educators of San Diego Unified, are committed to creating a much more robust, a much more clear, and useful and purposeful distance learning than we had in the spring," she said.
"We have had much more time to be trained; we've had much more time to prepare."