San Diego Unified School District Targets April 12 Return to Classrooms
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / February 25, 2021
San Diego Unified School District leaders announced a targeted date of April 12 to allow students of all grade levels to return to the classroom.
Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego unified students could be back in the classroom by April. The district announced plans to reopen schools for hybrid learning at all grade levels on April 12th, as long as the County is out of the purple tier and school staff can get access to both COVID vaccine doses. The agreement comes after months of negotiations between San Diego unified and the teacher's union. Kyle Weinberg is vice-president of the San Diego education association and was a leader in the bargaining unit for this back to school agreement. Kyle welcome. Thank you, Jay. Start by telling us about the negotiations for this agreement. How long did they actually take in what was an issue?
Speaker 2: 00:39 So we have been in negotiations with the district since the pandemic began on providing a safe education for students within our County. And as the negotiation statewide on Senate bill nine 86 took effect. We started ramping up our negotiations with the district on making sure that we have all the criteria in place to be able to provide a plan for families so that they can plan for the safe return to campuses. And we were able to agree to our criteria on, on Monday, uh, for, uh, that, that plan.
Speaker 1: 01:18 And tell me more about that criteria. What are the conditions for reopening San Diego unified schools the week of April 12th and you know, what, what has to happen?
Speaker 2: 01:27 So there's three criteria that needs to be in place for a safe reopening of campuses. One all school employees need to have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated. The site mitigations must be in place such as proper ventilation, social distancing, and required use of masks by all on campus. And also our community case rates need to be able to allow the County to return to the red tier for the first time, since the fall, in order to be able to open the campuses for in-person learning for all students by April 12th. And,
Speaker 1: 02:02 You know, is there time to do all this
Speaker 2: 02:04 That is up in the air. We need to be able to have that opportunity for the vaccinations. And we have assurances from the County that those will be, um, the supply will be there for those vaccines. We also need to all do our part to make the collective that continue to make those collective sacrifices, um, with social distancing so that we can get our community case rates down, uh, below seven per a hundred thousand, as we know we need to get into the red tier.
Speaker 1: 02:34 We're the San Diego education associations main concerns going into the bargaining session. Um, I assume safety was one.
Speaker 2: 02:42 Safety is principle, um, from the start of the pandemic educators and the district leadership have been on the same page that safety and science must be the driving factors. When we decide how we want to expand our in learning in person learning activities. And we can't lose sight of the fact that many of our students' families are being severely impacted by this deadly pandemic and won't feel comfortable returning to school just yet, especially in our nine two one one three and nine 21, 11 for San Diego unified zip codes. Um, Logan's South San Diego, Southeast San Diego that have consistently had a positive COVID case rates, uh, three times the rate of the rest of the County.
Speaker 1: 03:26 Um, and you know, that brings me to the students. Uh, you know, which students do you think have suffered the most by not being able to attend in-person,
Speaker 2: 03:35 You know, the inability to learn in-person has impacted everyone, but particularly our English language learners, our foster and homeless youth, our students with disabilities. And we have been working with the district since the fall on expanding learning opportunities for those students, even before we have a full reopening so that we can have learning labs and appointment-based opportunities for those students to come onto campuses up to five days a week so that we can meet their needs, because we know that, uh, remote learning is not the best option for most students.
Speaker 1: 04:15 Hmm. And, and tell me more, how will the district be able to make up for these learning losses?
Speaker 2: 04:20 So we have received learning loss funds from the state and from the federal government as part of the stimulus and a disaster relief packages. Those funds are being used to pay for visiting teachers to supervise online, learning on campuses so that, um, staff that can not come in before they are fully vaccinated so that they can continue to teach from home while the students have access to stable internet on campuses. And those funds can also be used for tutoring hours,
Speaker 1: 04:52 Right. And hybrid learning, uh, has been mentioned a lot. Can you explain what that looks like for San Diego unified students?
Speaker 2: 05:01 Those discussions are in the very early stages on what hybrid learning will look like. We'll be returning to the bargaining table tomorrow to discuss what the daily schedule will look like. We know that yeah, I'm in Chula Vista elementary school district. They recently surveyed parents and the parents in working class neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the virus, um, uh, have said that they will prefer that their students continue to learn by home for, by a two to one margin. And so we need to keep those families and those students in mind and make sure that any hybrid option that we return to when it is safe to do so is not going to negatively impact the students and the online learning program that has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic.
Speaker 1: 05:50 What kind of resources would it take for schools to fully reopen as they were pre pandemic? Well,
Speaker 2: 05:58 Most important is that we reach herd immunity. Uh, we need to bring the rate of the virus down to the level where we can actually do contact tracing. And if we are able to do that, then we're expecting that the state will also relax the guidelines on social distancing, which currently require that, um, students and teachers need to be six feet apart at all times. And to reduce the number of people that are in a room at any one time,
Speaker 1: 06:24 What are the union's main concerns in the upcoming negotiations?
Speaker 2: 06:29 We're going to make sure that the daily schedule for students is, uh, student-centered and is able to meet the needs of our diverse learners. We need to make sure that the safety mitigations in place are robust. We need to make sure that there's a process for educators who are at high risk, and we need to make sure that we have stability for, for everyone. Um, we do not want to have a roller coaster situation going forward, where we are opening and closing schools.
Speaker 1: 06:59 I've been speaking with Kyle Weinberg, vice president of the San Diego education association. Kyle, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you, dude.