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Vista Unified schools fully reopen for in-person learning

Posted at 11:52 AM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 14:52:49-04

VISTA, Calif. (CNS) - The Vista Unified School District fully reopened its schools Tuesday morning, becoming one of the first in the region to do so, even as San Diego County appears poised to slip back toward more restrictive COVID-19 tiers as infections surge.

The district, which has 29 elementary, middle and high schools, eschewed the more cautious measures some other school districts are taking, moving into its "Phase 3" reopening plan. The plan, "Vista Classic" allows every school in the district to reopen at full capacity. Parents and guardians will still be able to keep students in "Vista Virtual," the district's distance-learning program, if they so choose.

The district said it will attempt to have social distancing as much as possible but will allow as many as 38 students in a single classroom, so desks will not be spaced six feet apart.

ABC 10News was at Vista High School as, for the first time in more than seven months, students with backpacks were seen walking to school.

Some students told ABC 10News they with had mixed reactions to coming back.

One Vista High student said, “I’ve been wanting to come back because I miss going out and interacting with people.”

Another student added, “I don’t want to catch the virus and spread it to my family.”

A rally last Thursday by teachers and parents at Foothill Oaks Elementary School attempted to dissuade the Vista Unified School Board from reopening Tuesday, with many educators believing the safety measures inadequate.

According to KPBS, plexiglass barriers were not provided to teachers. Instead, they were given PVC pipes and plastic liner to create makeshift protection from students returning to in-person learning.

Keri Avila, president of the Vista Teachers Association, said on the first day back they’re already seeing issues that need to be addressed to ensure that everyone stays safe.

“The problem is it’s not equitable throughout the district. What other classrooms have others don’t have. And we just want the safety for all of our members and students,” Avila said.

The reopening of the Vista district comes as the county is expecting to receive bad news about its reopening status with the California Department of Public Health. Rising case numbers could tip the region into the "purple" tier, the state's most restrictive, as soon as next week. The state's plan requires a county to post statistics in a lower tier for two consecutive weeks before it is moved down.

Avila told ABC 10News that if the county moves into the purple tier, there are plans for a special board meeting where they will discuss the situation.