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Teachers Union Questions Chula Vista Elementary Reopening Plan After COVID-19 Cases At Campus Child Care Centers

Children play outside during recess at Rice Elementary School in Chula Vista,...

Photo by Kyla Calvert

Above: Children play outside during recess at Rice Elementary School in Chula Vista, March 15, 2013.

Chula Vista Elementary School District plans to start reopening in late October, but the teachers union has concerns about the number of COVID-19 cases that have already popped up at the childcare centers on campuses.

The district’s child care centers each serve about 20 students. They were opened by the district and the South Bay Family YMCA at the start of the school year primarily to help working parents.

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

Since early September, however, there have been five COVID-19 cases at the child care centers. Leaders of the district’s teachers union worry bringing more students back to campuses will only mean more positive cases.

RELATED: SD Unified, SDSU Taking Baby Steps Toward In-Person Learning

Rosi Martinez is a teacher at Hilltop Drive Elementary School on the west side of Chula Vista and the vice president of the teachers union. Like many of her colleagues, Martinez currently teaches from her classroom to avoid the distractions in her home.

She said in an interview Friday she regularly sees some of the staff and students at the child care center not wearing masks or practicing physical distancing.

“I’ve seen them on grassy areas participating in physical education activities where students are expected to stand next to each other,” Martinez said. “I think there isn’t an expectation of physical distancing. That’s a concern.”

She and others say this indicates that the district isn’t ready to welcome more students back to campuses on October 26, the date that it plans a limited reopening for disabled students and those in preschool through the second grade.

“If it’s such a small group of students and we can’t maintain physical distance in such a large space like being outside,” she said, “my concern is if we have much larger groups of students, how are we going to expect them to follow guidelines?”

RELATED: Poway Unified Pushes Ahead With Elementary Reopening Plans

District spokesman Anthony Millican declined to be interviewed but said in an emailed statement Friday that employees at the child care centers were required to watch a safety video that outlined physical distancing policies.

Also, he said the district’s reopening plan for October mandates face masks and clear plastic dividers between students in classes. Finally, voluntary COVID-19 tests will be available at several campuses, Millican said in his email.

But teachers union leaders aren’t reassured by the reopening plan. They’re calling for better ventilation systems and a nurse on every campus. They urged district officials not to rush, especially in light of the cases at the child care centers and because the district serves vulnerable, largely Latino neighborhoods, with some of the highest case numbers in the county.

“If the goal is to reopen by October 26th, we’ve got to have these things in place sooner than later,” said Susan Skala, president of the teachers union. “We would think the district would want to have higher safety standards, especially given the communities that we serve and the zip codes that we have.”

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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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