SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Students within the San Diego Unified School District will start the new fall school year learning from home.
Amid spiking coronavirus cases, San Diego Unified School District campuses will remain closed when classes resume next month on August 31, Superintendent Cindy Marten said Monday, defying President Donald Trump's demand that students return to in-person instruction.
The SDUSD on Monday issued a joint statement with the Los Angeles Unified School District, which also announced it will start the school year with online-only courses. In the statement, the districts acknowledged that schools have successfully reopened in some parts of the world, but said the conditions are different locally.
San Diego Unified school board member Richard Barrera says deciding to start next school year online was a difficult decision to make, yet one he feels is right, based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
"We want to get students back to campus as soon as we can but we will not put your students in harm's way, and we will not put their teachers in harm's way, and their families in harm's way."
"One fact is clear -- those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither," according to the statement. "The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control."
The districts said planning will continue for an eventual return to in-person classes, but no timeline was provided. In the meantime, teachers will be given "expanded training in online education," and students will receive training "to become better online learners."
District officials are currently putting a team of experts together to determine what metrics should be met in order for that to happen.
Barrera hopes to have an update by August 10th.
"Hopefully we'll be able to say at that point this is the date that we can physically reopen but if we're not able to do that because of the spread, at least we'll be able to say these are the conditions needed in order for us to be able to reopen."
Governor Gavin Newsom applauded the move during his press briefing Monday.
As did the California School Boards Association. Spokesperson Troy Flint says aside from the worsening pandemic, schools just don't have the resources needed to reopen.
The decision has left many working parents scrambling, wondering what to do about childcare.
Another concern, the online format in general, which has been criticized over the past several months.
Barrera insists improvements have been made.
“We don't think it's a good idea for students to spend all day online, but there will be more time than in the spring, there certainly will be a lot more interaction with teachers than the spring and there will be more training,” Barrera said.
The complete statement can be read below:
July 13, 2020
Joint Statement from San Diego Unified, Los Angeles Unified School Districts Regarding Online Start to School Year
On March 13, four months ago today, we made the difficult decision to close our schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Much has changed since that time: New research is available, additional information on school safety experiences from around the world, and updated health guidelines from state and county leaders.
Unfortunately, much of the research is incomplete and many of the guidelines are vague and contradictory. One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.
Therefore, we are announcing that the new school year will start online only. Instruction will resume on Aug.18 in Los Angeles Unified and Aug. 31 in San Diego Unified, as previously scheduled. Both districts will continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow.
This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August. It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand.
Our leaders owe it to all of those impacted by the COVID-19 closures to increase the pace of their work. No one should use the delay in the reopening of classrooms as a reason to relax. The coronavirus has not taken a summer vacation, as many had hoped. Indeed, the virus has accelerated its attacks on our community.
The federal government must provide schools with the resources we need to reopen in a responsible manner.
In the past four months, we have provided more than 47 million meals to families, distributed more than 250,000 computers to students and trained more than 35,000 educators in online learning. In the weeks ahead, we plan to continue this breakneck pace.
* The school year will resume on schedule.
* Teachers will receive expanded training in online education to better meet the needs of students.
* Students will receive additional training at the start of the year to become better online learners.
* Online supports for parents will be increased to make it easier for them to participate in the education of their students.
* Principals will continue customized planning for the safest possible reopening this fall.
* Free meals will continue to be provided at the current distribution stations.
On Friday, the American Academy of Pediatrics reversed course and said it was no longer confident that opening schools in the middle of a public health crisis is the best option for children. That reversal symbolizes the speed with which schools continue to receive vague and conflicting information from the medical and scientific communities. It is clear our two systems will need to create our own source for reliable scientific information.
Los Angeles Unified plans to update the community in early August. San Diego Unified will provide a public assessment on Aug.10 of how soon (after the first week of school) a physical return to class would be possible. That assessment will be based on local measures of whether the virus is sufficiently under control, as well as progress on testing and federal action on funding. On Aug.10, San Diego Unified will also outline the physical measures planned for each school to guard against the pandemic and detail the online learning program for the 2020-21 academic year.