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Schools Remain Cautious Even As San Diego Moves Off State’s COVID-19 Monitoring List

The Francis Parker School, a private school in San Diego. Aug. 20, 2020

Photo by Mike Damron

Above: The Francis Parker School, a private school in San Diego. Aug. 20, 2020

While San Diego County is getting closer to meeting the state requirement for reopening schools amid the pandemic, the schools themselves aren’t in a hurry to welcome students back to campus.

Under state mandate, a county must be off the monitoring list for high COVID-19 infection rates for 14 days before its schools can start in-person learning.

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

As the county enters its fourth day of being off the list, some San Diego County schools say they’re sticking to online or, at most, hybrid instruction even if the county reaches the 14-day mark.

The Francis Parker School, a private school in San Diego serving about 1,300 students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade, plans to only partially reopen its classrooms if the county has met the state’s criteria when the school year starts on Sept. 8.

“We would not try to return back to normal because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” said Kevin Yaley, the head of school at Francis Parker. “We have the responsibility to do everything we can while we’re in school, while we’re shopping at Trader Joe’s or while we’re walking along the beach.”

Yaley said under current plans the school will not at any point during the upcoming school year go back to full in-person learning. Even if the county remains off the monitoring list, Francis Parker will implement a hybrid model where students will be on campus only a few hours a week.

RELATED: Most School Reopening Requests Are From Private Schools, Raising Equity Concerns

Francis Parker is also one of 27 schools serving elementary-school grades that received a waiver from the county to allow in-person teaching regardless of whether the county is on the state’s watch list.

If the county gets back on the state’s list before Sept. 8, the school plans to welcome only its elementary-age students back to campus for hybrid instruction.

The Del Mar Union School District also submitted a waiver request and hopes to welcome students back for in-person learning on September 8th. But it’ll start its school year fully online Aug. 24.

If students are permitted to be back on campus, Del Mar will continue offering distance learning options. About a third of students and teachers have opted to stay online only even if the campuses are able to reopen, according to Holly McClurg.

RELATED: Despite Newsom’s Mandate, Some Elementary Schools Might Be Able To Reopen

McClurg said if conditions permit, the district will start in-person instruction on Sept. 8th while still offering a fully online option for the students and teachers who don’t feel comfortable coming back to campus.

“For whatever reason, those teachers needed to or wanted to provide instruction in a distance learning model,” McClurg said. “We’re fortunate that we have wonderful teachers who are doing that as well as our in-person teachers.”

Meanwhile, in the South Bay, the Sweetwater Union High School District will continue distance learning until October 2nd. The district serves some of the neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19.

“We’re not gonna put students at risk,” Rubio said. “That’s a really important factor. Our staff has to feel comfortable doing this as well.”

That said, the district does hope to welcome students back to classrooms later in the fall.

“Right now, from both students and staff we’re just hearing that it’s not time yet,” Rubio said. “We’re taking that input very seriously, and we’ll keep monitoring.”

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Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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