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Chula Vista elementary schools propose starting in-person instruction by late October

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Posted at 9:14 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 12:45:16-04

CHULA VISTA (KGTV) -- In an email sent late Friday night to the Chula Vista Elementary School District families, Superintendent Francisco Escobedo announced his plan to start reopening his South Bay campuses by late October.

Escobedo's proposal calls for phased expansion to "live in-person instruction" starting with preschool through second grade, and Special Day Class students (Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe special education students).

The first phase is slated to start Oct. 26, and will open classrooms on a modified day schedule Monday through Thursday. His letter did not include a date for students in grades three through six.

Escobedo said the district will follow a hybrid instruction model allowing families the option to continue distance learning.

In his letter, he acknowledges the South Bay's high rate of COVID-19 cases in certain zip codes but says campuses are the safest places for students citing "extensive protocols and requirements necessary for in-person instruction to take place."

"I have heard from many of you about the enormous challenge, frustrations even, of balancing work and life without the safety and security provided by our local schools," said Escobedo.

"In fact, several public school districts in San Diego County have already opened their campuses to at least small groups of students, including special education students, English learners, and others who need additional help or receive specialized instruction."

Coincidentally, four students have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Del Mar Union School District and had to return to online distance learning for two weeks after students tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Two students tested positive for the virus at Sage Canyon School, one student tested positive at Sycamore Ridge School, and another student tested positive at Torrey Hills School.

WATCH REPORT: Four positive COVID-19 cases confirmed at DMUSD

It's unclear what procedures CVESD campuses will follow if a student or teacher contracts the virus.

According to the district's Frequently Asked Questions page on its website, the goal is to keep class sizes at 16 except for classrooms with small dimensions.

Face coverings are required for the older students, while second graders and below are expected to wear one.

Escobedo's announcement comes days since the Sweetwater Union High School District informed families it would continue distance learning through December 2020, citing "significantly higher" COVID-19 cases within the district's communities.

Official data reports Chula Vista's case rate is 2,142.1 per 100,000 population, making it the third-highest in San Diego County. Spring Valley has the highest case rates with over 5,000 per 100K, followed by National City with 2,550 per 100K.

"It is with this information, and with our continued commitment to the safety of our students, families, and staff, that we announce the continuation of distance learning for the remainder of the semester through December 2020," SUHSD said in an email sent to families on Monday.

READ THE LETTER FROM ESCOBEDO TO FAMILIES BELOW:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

As we continue teaching and learning in this most unusual of years, I want to take a moment to thank our staff members and community partners who recently opened most of our schools to “cohorts,” or small groups of students, through the Distance Learning Support Program (DLSP). Participants include special education students, English learners, and children of essential workers. The program is operated in partnership with the YMCA of San Diego County. Already, more than 1,100 students are participating in DLSP at 41 of our 46 schools. In a traditional school year, this program might otherwise be considered a before- or after-school program. Now, during this pandemic year, DLSP operates during the school day to provide care and support with distance learning for our students who most need the program.

With the success experienced with DLSP, the Chula Vista Elementary School District is proposing an expansion to live in-person instruction when supported by local data. Ideally, we would start offering in-person instruction at the beginning of the second quarter of our academic year, which is Monday, October 26. We propose a phased expansion, starting with students in Preschool through Grade 2, as well as Special Day Class students (Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe special education students). I have heard from many of you about the enormous challenge, frustrations even, of balancing work and life without the safety and security provided by our local schools. Given the extensive protocols and requirements necessary for in-person instruction to take place, there is little doubt that schools are one of the safest places for students. In fact, several public school districts in San Diego County have already opened their campuses to at least small groups of students, including special education students, English learners, and others who need additional help or receive specialized instruction. More school districts will be opening in the weeks ahead in our region and across the country.

Because COVID-19 transmission rates have been higher in certain of our local zip codes than the rest of San Diego County, our District is taking a measured and cautious approach toward a return to on-site classes. With our proposed expansion to in-person instruction, students would attend school four days a week (M-Th), possibly on a modified day schedule. Our goal is 16 students per cohort for most classes, but no more than 18, in Transitional Kindergarten-Grade 2 in order to maintain social distancing. Preschool students would remain at no more than 14 students in a classroom with no more than two adults present. Students would have Fridays reserved for distance learning from home. More details can be found here. The proposed reopening will be the focus of our next District Town Hall virtual meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 8. Please save the date and join us!

It is important to understand that parents can choose to keep their students in the current distance learning instructional model—even when/if schools are reopened for in-person instruction. A commitment form will be sent to all District parents by school principals to determine which parents want their child/children to return to in-person instruction or remain in distance learning.

With the safety of students and staff foremost in our decision-making, our District will continue to work with local public health officials and the County Office of Education to ensure a reopening that is consistent with federal, state and local guidelines. We also continue to dialogue with our labor groups about how to return safely because of our increasing concern for students’ social-emotional well-being, physical safety, and widening academic inequities.

I appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we adjust to ever-changing conditions.

Sincerely,

Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.Superintendent