EL CAJON, Calif. — With COVID-19 numbers dropping and more and more people getting vaccines, there's a strong push to get children back into the classroom. One San Diego County school district is doing such a great job with their reopening, they were asked to participate in a national summit designed to help other districts follow their lead.
“Getting our kids safely back to school is essential,” President Biden said Wednesday at the National Safe School Reopen Summit.
He announced to the group of educators that $81 billion are being released to help schools across the country get kids back in the classroom.
Cajon Valley Union School District presented at the event, sharing lessons learned during the pandemic. The East County district has been at the forefront in this area, opening four schools full-time in September. The district is also on-track to resume full-time in-person learning at all of its 27 schools April 12.
District leaders said it's all about trust.
“We have to create relationships,” said Nerel Winter, Principal of Bostonia Language academy. “We have to focus everything on the relationship.”
Administrators said if students and parents know they're being heard and valued, it knocks down barriers that create a better learning environment.
“Our teachers in Cajon Valley were vulnerable enough at their sites to get on calls with parents from a school and listen and facilitate the feedback directly from parents,” added Assistant Superintendent Karen Minshew.
The district serves 17,000 students in the East County. Some of their schools have been back for months with barriers on desks in the classroom, mask-wearing, and a lot of hand washing. It's worked. They haven't had a single case of COVID-19 spread from one student to another.
“Even families that weren't ready to come back - or don't feel comfortable being back - we're seeing minds shift with the evidence of this is safe... it's good for students... my child's thriving,” Minshew said.
Students agree. They say their time on campus has been invaluable, especially when they talk to their friends in other districts that are still doing all remote learning.
“You don't get that time with your teacher - that one on one time,” said Anisha Ward, an 8th-grader at Bostonia Language Academy. “You can't go up to the teacher. You can't go up to them and ask, ‘Hey I need help with this. Hey can you explain this to me?’”
The Biden administration said their goal is to get nearly every K-8 school open by the end of next month and provide money for districts to offer summer programs for students who fell behind during online learning.
WATCH: Cajon Valley School District Superintendent shares how they have safely reopened