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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Poway Unified schools announce virtual start on Sept. 2; will remain fully virtual through the December break

The school district will be virtual through the end of 2020 after originally giving families an option for in-person learning.

POWAY, Calif. — In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Poway Unified Superintendent, Marian Kim-Phelps, Ed.D. announced that Poway Unified will start the 2020-21 school year fully virtual on Sept. 2.

PUSD stated that due to revised metrics by the county, it is impossible for any San Diego County school district to physically reopen schools for in-person instruction before mid-September.

The letter said “the new metrics announced to San Diego County Superintendents [on Tuesday] require our county to be off the monitoring list for two 14-day cycles (a total of 28 consecutive days). Additionally, if at any point during the aforementioned 28-day period, the county exceeds established thresholds for three days, it will be placed back on the state monitoring watchlist. Then, the county would need to remain off the monitoring list for another 28 days to resume in-person instruction.”

From new, more stringent metrics that must be met in order for local schools to reopen for in-person instruction. The revised metrics have made it impossible for any San Diego County school district to physically reopen schools for in-person instruction before mid-September. Therefore, Poway Unified will start the 2020-21 school year fully virtual on September 2.

The new information and guidelines influenced the district's decision to “avoid further uncertainty for our families, staff, and students during these unfortunate times.”

"It was extremely difficult but I think it was more disappointing," Kim-Phelps told News 8. 

"For the sake of our families, our teachers, and our students, I think people are looking for some answers and we want to assure, reassure our families that we are ready and prepared to open our schools," she added.

Students and parents had been given the option to choose between in-person learning or fully virtual learning with the decision due back to the school less than a week ago with the Family Commitment Form.

RELATED: In-class or virtual? Poway parents have a big decision to make

The letter stated that now all students will remain fully virtual through the December break (December 21-January 1), regardless of whether the in-person or fully virtual learning option was selected in the form.

Superintendent Kim-Phelps wrote that she is aware that this information may be disappointing to some staff, students, and parents that had a desire to start the school year on-campus but if permitted in January, the district would be ready for a prompt and safe return to in-person learning.

She also added that Poway Unified has been refining its on-line learning models since last spring. 

"We are also going to be pushing out family videos, videos for our families to access to help them know how to navigate and support their children at home with their distance learning as well," she added.

"I feel like the district was kind of put in between a rock and a hard place, and this decision helped to make sure they can accommodate everyone equally," said Poway Unified parent Jennifer Ferguson, who had already opted for distance learning for her daughter, whose health conditions place her in a high-risk group. 

Ferguson, who also works as a special needs instructional assistant for the district, said that while distance learning works well for her child, she realizes that is not the case for everybody.

"I do think that students who struggle without the contact will have a tough time with this," she added.