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Health

As students return to school, so do COVID cases and absences

Back-to-school will be all-virtual for at least one local high school. Helix Charter High School sent a letter to parents today, telling them they likely won’t have the staff for in-person learning this week. Other school districts have gone back in person but absences and positive COVID cases are starting back, too. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez continues covering the spread of coronavirus and the response from local districts.

More school districts returned to in-person classes Tuesday after the holiday vacation, but absences and positive COVID-19 cases are starting back, too.

Students in San Diego Unified School District have been back in class since Monday. Attendance dropped to just about 84%. That is down almost 10,000 students from attendance calculated the week before Christmas.

District officials credit some of that to parents keeping their children out of school after testing positive for COVID-19 using test kits sent home before winter break.

“It’s the spread of the virus and the continuation of the virus which puts us on this roller coaster," San Diego Unified trustee Richard Barrera said. "And that’s what makes it difficult to do the job we need to do for our students.”

As of Tuesday, at least 34,180 people reported one or more negative tests to the California Department of Public Health portal, and 1,982 reported a positive test result, according to district officials.

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Roland Lizarondo / KPBS
Students on campus at Knox Middle School after being vaccinated against COVID-19, Jan. 4, 2022

Also on Tuesday, the district’s vaccination van returned with UC San Diego Health workers on campus at Knox Middle School. They offered all vaccine and booster doses to students, staff, and anyone else who wants protection from COVID-19.

Vanessa Acuna, who is a teacher in another district, came with her sister, Adriana Leon, a special needs paraeducator at Knox, and her retired father to get their booster shots.

“I do feel protected," Acuna said. "It’s an extra step of protecting ourselves and our family.”

The vaccination van is scheduled to be at Perkins K-8 School from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, offering free vaccinations to anyone who wants them with no appointment necessary. The district has posted a schedule for the van online.

The district is also partnering with Sharp Healthcare to host pop-up vaccine clinics which are open to the community, staff, families and students. Sharp will vaccinate anyone 5 years of age and older at the onsite clinics.

Students who are over the age of 11 and attend the hosting school may be vaccinated without a parent present if they have a signed consent form. Students 18 and younger from visiting schools and all students 11 and younger must have a parent present to get vaccinated.

The next Sharp Pop-Up Clinic is scheduled for 0 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7, at University City High School. Anyone over age 18 can schedule an appointment or walk in. Appointments are encouraged but not mandatory.

For appointments, go to myturn.ca.gov. No access code is needed.