SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Families with children in the county's largest school district will have to wait until next year to have their kids return to the classroom.
Today San Diego Unified School District leaders and School Board members announced that the goal for phase 2 of their reopening plan is January.
Elementary school students would return on January 4th, after winter break. Middle and high school kids would return on January 25th.
School officials say virus spread in the community could jeopardize that plan.
"We actually anticipate that San Diego County will move into the purple tier sometime in the next few weeks. We know that once the county moves into the purple tier we can continue with phase 1, not phase 2," said Richard Barrera, school board vice-president.
Under phase 2, pre-k to fifth grade would return to campus four days a week. They'd be split up into an am or pm session. Fridays would be online. Middle and high school students would be on campus two days a week, also split into two groups, with Fridays on line. Families can still opt for remote learning.
"I think it's a start, I think it's a plan that should've been implemented on day one, it's just surprising that eight weeks into the school year we're just coming up with this plan," said parent Gina Smith.
Smith is a family therapist and mom of an eight-year-old boy. She started a group with other parents pushing for schools to reopen. They've been holding rallies outside the school district offices. She believes the district hasn't done enough to get kids back to class.
"Absolutely poorly, all the way around, they've had seven months to prepare up until now, and we've had no communication up until the point that we started these rallies," said Smith.
The district has been working with UCSD scientists on the reopening plan. School leaders said they've spent more than $45 million on PPE, sanitation, social distancing measures, ventilation, and other precautions.
Berrara said it's the district's goal to have a robust testing plan that would regularly test everyone who comes on campus.
"I don't think there is a single district in this county, or frankly in this country, that can make the claim right now that they know that if somebody comes onto one of their campuses with the virus that they are able to prevent the spread, because we don't have the testing," said Berrera.
Smith said she isn't overly concerned about the virus.
"Our concerns are, should be on par with any normal flu season, and we should take the necessary precautions, but I think we are going to see more cases, obviously, as we have more tests," said Smith.
The district implemented phase 1 of its reopening on October 13th. Since that time, there have been more than 4,000 appointments for in-person learning across 106 schools.
According to Superintendent Cindy Marten, there have been zero documented outbreaks of COVID-19 and zero documented cases of transmission on campus.
San Diego Unified is California's second-largest school district.
Since the start of the pandemic in March, the district has passed out more than 6 million free student meals, distributed over 85,000 Chromebooks, and provided millions of minutes of online instruction, according to a press release sent by the district.