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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

New Reopening Guidelines For Schools Unveiled

Speaker 1: 00:00 The CDC has guidelines for reopening schools. Now they're specific about in-person school safety measures, like social distancing, physical barriers and testing, but getting teachers and faculty vaccinated, isn't a top priority in these guidelines. San Diego's largest school district has already announced its hope for in-person school reopening in the fall. And they're exploring the best way to do that. Joining me is Richard Berrera president of the board of trustees of San Diego unified school district. Richard. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:31 Thank you, Jake. Got it. Glad to be on Speaker 1: 00:34 What is your reaction to the CDC reopening plan? Speaker 2: 00:38 Well, I think the CDC reopening guidelines are very consistent with certainly what our district has been doing throughout the pandemic. So it really focuses on two key areas within schools. It recommends a series of mitigation measures to prevent against the spread of the virus on campus. And that includes everybody wearing masks, PPE, widely available, uh, the classrooms being properly ventilated, a lot of cleaning of the classrooms and maintaining social distance. Secondly, it sets, you know, uh, different criteria, you know, that the level of the spread of the virus in your community, it has recommendations about, um, whether or not to reopen. And if you reopen, uh, do you do it by a hybrid model? Do you do a full reopening? So it it's very focused on, um, where we are in terms of the spread of the virus in the, in the community. Speaker 1: 01:39 And, you know, part of that school reopening plan includes a color tiered system based on the rate of community spread from blue, the lowest rate to red, the highest rate, where does San Diego fall on that? Speaker 2: 01:51 You know, our, um, team from UCFD that we've, uh, looked to for guidance. We're actually asking that question. How do you interpret the different metrics in San Diego County? And where does that place us on the CDC tiers? It's worth noting Jade, that the governor has already indicated that although he also appreciates the CDC guidelines, he does not see them as replacing the current guidelines in place from the state department of public health. And we're still following the basic guidelines from the state department of public health. Speaker 1: 02:27 Is there now a chance that San Diego unified classes will actually reopen fully and Speaker 2: 02:32 The spring? So right now we are expanding the number of students, uh, on our campuses that fall into the categories of, uh, you know, the kids that we've identified that most needs to be on campus. So that could be students with disabilities that need in person services. It could be homeless students, it could be English learners, uh, or it could simply be students whose teachers identifying that it would be good for them to come in right now, we've got a few thousand students that have been coming in, but over this week, and the next couple of weeks, we plan to expand that significantly. We're hoping to get that up to, you know, closer to 15 to 20,000 students. And then as we move towards reopening, in-person learning for all students at all grade levels. There's a couple of important factors that we're looking at, do the case rates continue to decline. Speaker 2: 03:30 And then the second issue is can we get our educators vaccinated? And we were highly encouraged by, uh, Nathan Fletcher, the chair of the County board of supervisors, who last week said that within the next two to three weeks, he anticipates that the County would have enough supply so that we could begin to vaccinate, uh, all the educators that are necessary to be there for in-person learning. So, uh, availability of vaccines for our educators in declining case rates give us a lot of optimism that we can be in a position to start to reopen in the spring. Speaker 1: 04:07 So what about the necessity of vaccinations for teachers? The CDC plan says teachers can return to school before being vaccinated. Um, what is San Diego unified his position on that? Speaker 2: 04:18 Our position is that teachers and all educators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, para educators, principals, uh, every adult that needs to be on campus for in-person learning should be vaccinated. And, you know, the important thing is that, you know, we've been working with the County board of supervisors and it's looks like we're going to be in a position to actually make that happen. So we are moving forward on a plan that would allow our educators to be vaccinated before they returned to campus. Speaker 1: 04:50 So the plan will allow for teachers to be vaccinated before returning, but will it require teachers to, to be vaccinated before returning Speaker 2: 04:58 Very unlikely that we would require, uh, teachers and educators to be vaccinated. But what we're focused on is working with the County so that we can make those vaccines fully available and in an efficient way. So for instance, we would be interested in opening up facilities, you know, school district facilities, as places to vaccinate educators and to work with the County to make that process go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Okay. Speaker 1: 05:28 Uh, the American Academy of pediatrics is among a groups urging the reopening of schools because of the psychological damage being done to some kids stuck at home. How concerned are you about the toll the pandemic has taken on students, right? Speaker 2: 05:42 We're extremely concerned. And you know, that's both in terms of academic loss and social, emotional trauma that students have been facing this entire time. So, you know, I appreciate you asking about that because simply reopening is not the end of the story. We anticipate that probably a large percentage of our parents will continue to keep their students home, even as we, uh, as we reopened schools, which means we have to continue with a strong distance learning program as we go forward. But we also have to have the resources to provide the extra counseling, the extra mental health support, the extra academic support that students will need to pull them out of this crisis that they've been in for just about a year now. And we are encouraged as well, that president Biden in his relief package that he's proposing to Congress includes the kinds of resources, uh, that would be necessary for schools to help our students overcome the, uh, the trauma that they faced and accelerate their learning. So that there'll be back on track. And the new school year, Speaker 1: 06:54 I've been speaking with Richard Barrera, president of the board of trustees, of San Diego unified school district. Richard, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Dave.

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San Diego Unified officials signaled optimism for a partial return to campuses in the coming months while the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated guidance.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments