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Some San Diego County School Districts Plan Mid-April Reopening

Students in a modified classroom for COVID-19 safety at the Cajon Valley Unio...

Credit: Cajon Valley Union School District

Above: Students in a modified classroom for COVID-19 safety at the Cajon Valley Union School District in an undated photo.

Three San Diego County school districts have all announced plans to reopening for either in-person or hybrid learning starting mid-April.

Cajon Valley Union School District will return to a pre-pandemic schedule of full-time school, five days a week, after spring break on April 12, it was announced Wednesday.

The district serves more than 17,000 students in 27 schools in the East County of San Diego. It has consistently been the first public school district in the county to move toward reopening and returning to "normal" while other districts take a cautious approach, including becoming the largest county district to get a waiver last fall for in-person education.

The San Diego Unified School District is planning for an April 12 opening as well, but for hybrid in-person/online learning or just online, depending on the comfort level of families. Students will be able to return to school four days a week for six hours a day.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District has plans for two-, three-hour cohorts of students with 155 minutes of instruction beginning April 12 with a hybrid option.

Cajon Valley will also offer a distance learning option, said Howard Shen, a spokesman for the district.

"Not all parents are going to be comfortable by then, so we will have a distance-learning option," Shen told City News Service. "It's never going to be exactly the same as in-person learning. We are going to continue to adjust accordingly."

The number of hours in the district's distance-learning plan compared to in-person is unclear.

Shortly after the state-mandated shutdown of schools in 2020, Cajon Valley reopened a limited number of schools to provide free child care for essential workers. According to Shen, the district serves a high proportion of law enforcement and health care worker families.

Initially serving several hundred students, the staff was able to set up schools for social distancing, managing stable student cohorts and use of personal protective equipment.

During the summer break, more than 1,000 Cajon Valley employees, led by principals, opened all 27 schools for free summer learning, serving more than 6,500 students. This was a direct scale-up of the child care pilot.

District officials say this allowed them to expand proper safety markings, equipment and protocol to all schools, as well as offer a training program based on the California Department of Public Health safety guidelines developed by the nurses and health care staff.

Cajon Valley invited all students to return to in-person learning in September, including four schools that had students back five days a week.

In 10 months of serving approximately 11,000 students in person, Cajon Valley experienced only one case of school COVID-19 transmission -- from a student to a staff member in a one-on-one situation -- and zero cases of student-to-student transmission, officials said.

To accommodate reduced class sizes, provide additional care and supervision, as well as properly adhere to safety guidelines from the CDPH, more than 80 additional teachers and several hundred classified employees were hired since December 2020.

A judge on Monday ruled in favor of a group of North County parents who sued the state to overturn pandemic-related rules they allege have unfairly prevented school districts from reopening for in-person learning.

The temporary restraining order issued by San Diego Superior Court Judge Cynthia Freeland prohibits the state from enforcing the provisions of its January framework for reopening schools, which the plaintiffs say have interfered with school districts' reopening plans and include "arbitrary" restrictions that have impeded in-person instruction from resuming.

Districts applying for waivers that were previously denied by the state include the Carlsbad Unified School District, San Dieguito Union High School District, and Poway Unified School District.

Three parents filed a class-action lawsuit against the San Diego Unified School District last week alleging the district has failed to provide sufficient in-person learning and access to online learning during the pandemic. The lawsuit argues that San Diego Unified violated a state Senate bill signed last summer because it has not offered in-person learning for the majority of its students.

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