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

San Diego Unified School District elementary echools reopen in 'phase 1'

In-classroom learning was back in session for many elementary schools in the San Diego Unified School District with a limited number of students and staff.

SAN DIEGO — Jumping up for joy, a small trio of Lafayette Elementary School students were elated to be back inside class on Tuesday.

"It's like first day of school on October 13, and we're getting all those fun pictures of the kids so excited to be back,” said San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten.

The school district opened up most elementary schools for its phase 1 this week.

"It's not about opening the fastest, it's about being the safest, so that every step forward that we take, in welcoming our kids back to in-person learning is a solid step forward,” Marten said.

SDUSD sent out video guides to give parents their daily checklist before kids return to school which includes conducting temperature checks.

"We're very excited. We don't have a large group of students on campus today, but we had about 16,” said Lafayette Elementary School Principal Anne McCarty.

Lafayette will only have 25 students total on campus this the week for appointment-based learning. It's the home of the district's deaf and hard-of-hearing program.

“These are truly students that need that intensive support that online learning isn't providing for them,” McCarty said.

Each classroom has a new and separate ventilation system, plexiglass dividers, and no shared desks. There will be A and B rotating student days.

"How do we maintain distance? How do we keep everybody safe? How do we make sure our students keep their masks on?” McCarty listed some of the concerns.

Marten said it’s no simple or cheap task.

"There's a real cost to that. We knew that, so that's why we put $45 million aside in our coronavirus relief to be able to put these things in place,” Marten said.

The school is adapting with providing outdoor classroom space for learning.

"It's largely deaf and hard-of-hearing students that are coming in for a couple hours at a time. Some of the students will be here all week, others will rotate on different days,” said Vice President of San Diego Unified School Board Richard Barrera.

The schools reopened exactly seven months after they closed March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is still pushback from parents who want all schools to open sooner.

"Of course we understand that and we want to listen to the perspectives from all parents,” Barrera said.

McCarty said it's been her most difficult year yet.

"Unfortunately, we are also the school who had a plane crash a couple years ago, so we dealt with some challenges here,” she said.

Lafayette is home to about 254 students in their T-K to 5th grades.

How will the San Diego Unified School district move up to phase 2?

"We’re going to evaluate the data and see in these initial steps that the safety protocols were working. We are just testing that out now, so that we can continue to open more and more, so that we can go full scale,” Marten said.