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San Diego Unified announces April 12 as target date to re-open district classrooms with hybrid-learning model

This re-opening is contingent on teachers having access to both doses of the coronavirus vaccine and declining case rates placing San Diego County in the red tier.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego Unified School District leaders outlined its plans for re-opening its classrooms for a hybrid learning model beginning April 12, provided that certain conditions are first met. 

Those include that all educators who wish to be vaccinated have access to both doses of the vaccine before returning to campus, and that case rates in San Diego County continue to decline, so that the county falls into the red tier before re-opening classrooms, according to Kisha Borden, president of the San Diego Education Association which represents 6500 teachers and other educators working in the San Diego Unified School District.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, Board President Richard Barrera told News 8 that the district plans to open up classrooms to all grade levels starting April 12 on a hybrid model. Teachers would return a week prior on April 5. Barrera said that he is confident both goals, teacher vaccinations and declining case rates, will be met.

As for the hybrid model, Barrera said specifics are still being worked out, but parents will be sent a survey to weigh in.

Barrera sat down with News 8 to discuss the reopening plan

At Tuesday's school board meeting, school leaders added that those surveys will be sent out to parents in the next few days.

School leaders also confirmed at Tuesday's meeting that, at this point, teachers will not be required to get vaccinated.

The district will also be partnering with UC San Diego to conduct COVID-19 surveillance testing on an ongoing basis at schools throughout SDUSD.

School leaders Tuesday also addressed the even bigger challenges that exist, aside from getting students physically  back into the classroom,"which is how do we help our students get beyond what  they have experienced over this last year, academically, socially, emotionally," Barrera said.

To that end, district leaders also said that summer programs will be expanded district-wide to help compensate for the learning loss that many students throughout  the district have experienced. 

“Our plan to reopen classrooms in April is the result of groundbreaking collaboration between our city, our county and our professional educators. From the start of this crisis, we have remained committed to reopening when it was safe and responsible to do so. Full vaccinations for educators are part of that safety plan, and we are very grateful for our regional partners helping us to achieve this goal,” Barrera said.

Barrera also said students and staff will be tested for COVID-19 on campus every two weeks. In addition, safety protocols like ventilated classrooms and mask wearing will be in place. If for some reason our numbers decline or there’s a delay with vaccinating teachers, those target dates could be pushed back. A full-time reopening is expected in the fall.

The district said it recognizes some parents will not feel safe sending their kids back to in-person learning at this time. For those families, the district said online learning will continue to be an option.

Co-founder of Reopen SDUSD sat down with News 8 to talk about the district's plan to reopen

“In the past year, our country has lost 500,000 people to this terrible disease, and we know our young people have also felt its effects, through lost loved ones, and also through lost opportunities. We also know this loss has not impacted all communities equally, and our historically disadvantaged students have suffered the most from the COVID-19 crisis. It is up to all of us to give them back their future -- not only on the day we reopen classrooms, but on each day afterwards by renewing California’s commitment to equity in education,” Barrera said.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher provided the following statement on Twitter Monday on San Diego Unified School District’s reopening plan for schools.

“Getting our kids back in the classroom is one of our highest priorities and I want to commend San Diego Unified and the San Diego Education Association for reaching this agreement. At the County, we will do everything possible to get our school staff vaccinated so our classrooms can be open to in-person learning,” Fletcher said.

Mayor Todd Gloria issued the following statement on Twitter Monday about the San Diego Unified School District’s announcement:

“I want to thank San Diego Unified for providing a clear timeline on getting kids back in the classroom and, more importantly, providing parents with some certainty. This news provides some relief to parents who have had to juggle multiple roles during the pandemic," Gloria said. “While a hybrid schedule is still difficult for many working families, this represents a step in the right direction. I will keep working with and urging the school district officials, teachers and stakeholders to continue making progress toward getting our kids back in the classroom full time.” 

According to the San Diego County Office of Education, some 88,000 students are now participating in a hybrid learning environment, including some time on campus. That county number would immediately double once San Diego Unified launches its own hybrid program.

Following weeks of negotiations, state lawmakers agreed to a $6.5 billion plan to help California’s school districts re-open safely. The Safe and Open Schools plan comes as San Diego parents rally to get their children back in the classroom. 

The $6.5 billion Safe and Open Schools plan requires county public health officials to offer vaccinations to school staff returning to in-person teaching.

For districts to receive money, they must offer in-person classes by April 15 to vulnerable students in lower grades including English learners, homeless students and those without computers and foster children.

In a joint statement, several school districts including San Diego Unified, Los Angeles and Sacramento says this is a step in the right direction.

Parents were invited to connect with San Diego Unified School District leaders during a special virtual event.

The discussion was held Tuesday, February 16. News 8’s Marcella Lee moderated the forum as parents asked questions of the district leaders.

Here's the complete panel discussion: