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San Diego Unified Announces Major COVID Testing Plan For Students & Staff

San Diego Unified School District board member Richard Barrera speaks about t...

Photo by Jacob Aere

Above: San Diego Unified School District board member Richard Barrera speaks about the district launching a COVID testing plan on the campus of UC San Diego on Nov. 10, 2020.

As San Diego falls into the purple tier of coronavirus restrictions, the San Diego Unified School District is moving forward with an ambitious plan to test all 100,000 students and 15,000 staff members.

San Diego Unified’s plan would mean testing the district’s students and employees twice a week.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

On Tuesday morning at a news conference in front of UC San Diego’s Geisel library, district board member Richard Barrera laid out the critical importance of being able to do just that.

“The ability to regularly test our students and our employees who are coming onto campus is such an important factor in our ability to open and stay open,” Barrera said.

The location of the news conference is emblematic of the plan. It’s the result of a months-long collaboration between the district, UC San Diego and the San Diego Education Association, the union representing teachers.

It comes as the district is reopening in phases. Right now, it’s in phase one where only elementary students with the greatest needs are on campus for appointment based sessions.

The district is in the process of adding middle and high schoolers along with toddlers in the coming weeks.

“I’m looking at long-term, a year to two years of the virus still being active, but schools needing to be opened,” said SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten.

RELATED: Some San Diego Schools May Be Affected By Return To Purple Tier

But it’s not just testing. San Diego Unified has been working to make classrooms as safe as possible.

Plexiglas barriers have gone up around desks. Students will sit at every other desk.

When the district moves into phase two, elementary school students will be in school more than their older counterparts. They’ll attend class in morning and afternoon sessions four days a week.

Sixth through 12th graders would only attend two days per week.

Marten said even though the district can’t move into phase two while the county remains in the purple tier, she wanted the district to be able to hit the ground running.

“We’re getting that started right now in November and December with 10 locations in our phase-one, so that we can continue to ramp that up when we’re out of purple and have it be at every campus,” she said.

Late Tuesday, the district board voted unanimously to spend $5 million to get the testing program up and running.

How fast every student can get back into the classroom depends on this community’s ability to beat down the virus.

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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