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Half Of San Diego Unified Students Expected To Return To Classrooms Next Week

Nicholas McVicker
A teacher guides students through a lesson at Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont Mesa on Oct. 13, 2020.

San Diego Unified School District expects about half of its students to return to in-person instruction next week, but those numbers could change as more parents feel comfortable sending their children to school.

So far, about two-thirds of parents have responded to a survey the district sent out last month asking whether their students would return to campuses. Among those parents, nearly three-quarters are comfortable sending their students back.

Half Of San Diego Unified Students Expected To Return To Classrooms Next Week
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“We’re also ready for surprises next week,” said Richard Barrera, president of San Diego Unified’s school board. “We may have students show up who we weren’t expecting, and we may have students who signed up to be in-person not show up. The schools are gonna be ready for whoever shows up.”

Half Of San Diego Unified Students Expected To Return To Classrooms Next Week

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Getting an accurate number of returning students will be key to determining how many days a week students can be on campus. If a high number of students want to come back, physical distancing rules require they be split into two smaller groups, with each group on campus twice a week. But if fewer students return, they can be in the classroom up to four days a week.


“Right now it looks like about three-quarters of our schools will be offering four days, and the remainder of our schools will either be two days or a combination,” Barrera said. “There may be some grade levels at the schools that are at four days and others are at two days.”

Approaches to reopening vary across the county’s largest districts.

At Sweetwater Union High School District in the South Bay, district officials approved a plan that would bring back 10% of students, prioritizing students with disabilities and those who have fallen behind during distance learning. Meanwhile, Chula Vista Elementary School District expects about 60% of enrolled students will return in person when campuses reopen on Apr. 12.

Poway Unified School District’s middle and high schools resumed in-person instruction in March. About 54% of middle school students and 44% of high school students returned to the classroom.

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Barrera said district officials will try their best to be flexible if more students decide to come back in the coming weeks or months. But on April 12 if a particular school is allowing four days of instruction per week, the district does not plan to reduce the number of in-person days at that school to accommodate more students.

“We want to make that happen, but if that creates a real challenge space-wise, we do not want to move from four days to two days,” Barrera said.

Barrera added that principals are working to get all parents to respond to the survey, but officials will assume that parents who don’t respond to the survey are deciding to keep their students at home.