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San Diego Unified School District delays school reopenings, will continue virtual learning into early 2021

COVID-19 pandemic sharpens digital divide for rural students
Posted at 7:50 AM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 20:59:13-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – The San Diego Unified School District on Tuesday announced a delay in the next step of its reopening plan.

District officials, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases, said virtual distance learning will continue into early 2021. Officials also said the district would push back moving into its second phase, which would have reopened school campuses.

A letter to families regarding the decision was posted on the district’s website:

"Due to ongoing health concerns related to COVID-19 and the safety of our students, staff and community, we have decided to continue with online learning for the majority of students through the first part of the new year. However, appointment-based, in-person instruction will still be available on campus for students with the greatest needs through Phase 1.

The decision to remain online longer than we had hoped will be disappointing to the many students, teachers and others who are eager to be back in the classroom. However, the current spread of the coronavirus in our community makes it unsafe to move forward with Phase 2 of our reopening at this time. We plan to reassess the public health conditions and provide an updated timetable on Jan. 13.

In the meantime, we will continue to provide updated information on our reopening plans on our website. This includes a status dashboard and a complete list of the conditions we are continuing to watch for when it will be safe again to reopen campuses.

We will also continue increasing the number of students participating in the small group instruction, with infant/toddler, early learning, middle school, and high school students to start receiving appointments on Dec. 7. Since October, some 2,000 elementary school students have participated in these appointments.

Everyone looks forward to reuniting students and teachers in classrooms in the new year as quickly and as safely as possible. San Diego Unified has already spent tens of millions of dollars on air filtration, plexiglass desk dividers, hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and more. Schools will be ready when it is safe and responsible to fully reopen. Unfortunately, that time has not yet come.

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned yesterday of potential drastic new measures at the state level, and, in San Diego County, close to 1,000 new cases have been reported. Hospitalizations have tripled this month. The most difficult stages of the pandemic may yet be ahead of us, but we are confident we will get through this together by remaining vigilant."

The district’s decision comes after many parents held several rallies over the past few months urging SD Unified to reopen schools.

ABC 10News spoke to John Anderson, a father of four. He has two children who attend Jefferson Elementary, but have taken classes virtually since the spring. He wishes the school board would consider other options, such as in-person outdoor learning.

“I think it’s a good accommodation that we can do. It’s not the case in Chicago or Minneapolis,” Anderson said.

Once the vaccine becomes widely available, Anderson hopes school staff gets access quickly to regain a sense of normalcy.

“I’m glad that first-responders and hospital workers are first in line. Hopefully, our teachers and educators and support staff will be second behind them," Anderson said.

On November 30, the county's second-largest district, Sweetwater Union in Chula Vista, announced that they too will postpone in-person instruction. They will revisit the situation in February.

The county's third-largest district, Poway Unified, will continue in-person learning for elementary-age children. Middle and High School students will remain at home until further notice.