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KPBS Midday Edition Special: Students Return To The Classroom

 April 12, 2021 at 2:03 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Tens of thousands of San Diego kids are back in school. Speaker 2: 00:04 It was insane for me to just realize this is really going to be a longterm effect on my education. Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Hyman. This is KPBS midday edition San Diego schools, chief Cindy Martin says students physical and mental health has to be protected. Speaker 3: 00:30 What's happening with you, what's happening with your family. And when you can engage in a trauma informed approach and see needing students and families where they are and understanding truly what they've faced is really important. Speaker 1: 00:44 Teachers take on the dual responsibility of in-person and online classes. And I look at the efforts to get COVID vaccines ready for school aged kids that's ahead on midday edition. Speaker 1: 01:01 It seemed back in the darkest days of the pandemic last winter, that this day might never come. But today San Diego unified the county's largest school district has joined many other schools and districts across the County to reopen the school doors and welcome students back to class. Most students won't find things exactly back to normal. There's a shortened school week, many safety precautions, and some students still learning remotely, but it's closer to a post pandemic world than we've seen in a long time. As the reopening gets underway, many students will begin to assess how their learning has been affected by the school shutdown of the past year. We asked 17 year old Canyon Hills high school, junior Kate chasten, to share her thoughts on going back to school. Speaker 2: 01:48 I think the first time that it really hit me, that the pandemic was going to change. My learning for the foreseeable future was when our school district shut down for six weeks to try and figure out what they were going to do. There were so many moving pieces that they needed to figure out. And then once the six weeks were up and we were supposed to supposedly go back after our extended spring break, it's still nothing had been figured out. And just the fact that I was in ambiguity until June when the school year ended, it was insane for me to just realize, Oh, this is really going to be a long-term effect on my education. Speaker 3: 02:38 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 02:38 Very social person and I'm a very touchy person. So I like to give my friends hugs and pats on the back and things like that. And so, um, when we weren't in person anymore, it made it so difficult just to be social. And luckily now we've all adapted to it. We're using we're on phone calls, FaceTimes, texting, things like that. But in the beginning, just so many little elements of my school day that were so normal. All of a sudden we're speeding by in the rear view mirror. Like that's not a thing that's going to be happening anymore. Luckily it was very easy for me to adapt to the online format because I had the resources and infrastructure already set up for me to be successful in a distance format. I had fantastic teachers that still stuck with it. They still put out information for us to be able to learn Speaker 4: 03:37 In the great Speaker 2: 03:38 Period for the first couple months of the pandemic. Speaker 4: 03:53 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 03:53 The missing piece in school. And also just in life in general that the pandemic has caused just there's a missing social aspect to it. There's just kind of a buzz and a warmth of being in a classroom with a bunch of other kids, especially this year. I feel like I got so cheated out cause my English class had the most thought provoking conversation in the chat box and just imagining how much more I could have gotten out of that class. Had we been in person if we were all sitting in our chairs in a circle, having a dialogue about social issues and things just there, there's an energy that comes from being in the classroom that was absolutely lost this year. And I feel like I learned less in those classes because the environment was very cold and I guess sterile for lack of a better, Speaker 4: 04:46 I'm Speaker 2: 04:47 Personally happy to be going back with a caveat of I'm going back two days a week. And so three days a week, I'm still going to be doing the exact same thing I've been doing this entire school year. Um, so I am excited to go back just to get that social aspect from my friends that are going back and to see my teachers. I really like to engage with my teachers. So it's nice to actually be able to meet them finally. Um, but I do have anxiety over how easy it is for someone to not wear a mask and to not wear hand sanitizer and to not follow the COVID regulations that are in place for our safety, because there are just to put it politely. There are certain people that may not have the regard for other safety to wear a mask or to socially distance while on campus. And that is a big reason why a lot of my friends are choosing not to return. Um, but like I feel comfortable enough to go back. Um, so I do have apprehension about the environment, but also I just wanted to be back on campus. So I'm going back. Speaker 2: 06:10 I'm definitely looking forward to going down that social vein, just the little things that come with being in person. So like a mild acquaintance of mine, well wave at me in the halls and I'll be a little wave back at them and say hi, or like I'm in my math class right now. And every single math class that any high schooler has been. And we'll know that there's a little shuffle that everybody does during passing period before the class starts, where everybody huddles around like the two smart kids and they get all the answers to the math homework. And so just little things that are such a big aspect of the high school experience, despite being so minute to everyday life, I'm just excited to get those [inaudible] baskets Speaker 1: 07:01 Was Canyon Hills high school, junior, Kate Chaisson, who returned to campus for in-person instruction today, Speaker 2: 07:07 Right? Speaker 1: 07:22 The long awaited first day back has teachers, students and parents excited and a little nervous. It's not just the lingering threat of COVID-19 that's concerning. It's how this anything but normal school semester is going to work. Some kids are back, some are remaining at home. The school week is different and many teachers will be teaching both in person and remotely at the same time. Joining me is KPBS education reporter Joe Hong, Joe. Welcome. Great to be here. You were at Kenyon Hills high this morning. Tell us what it was like as the students returned. Speaker 5: 07:56 It was quiet actually. It's definitely not. Um, things are not back to normal. Not the entire student body is back. There was a, uh, a cheerleader squad sort of performing at the entrance of the school, trying to get students pumped up. But you know, outside the main entrance, there were maybe, I don't know, a dozen two dozen students just sort of waiting to get inside. So, um, there, wasn't a lot of excitement and, and, and like, I guess pomp and circumstance, I guess, but you know, things are slowly going back to normal Speaker 1: 08:35 About what percentage of the total student population at San Diego unified have decided to come back for in-person classes Speaker 5: 08:43 As of late last week, the, uh, estimate from the district was about half of the total enrollment. So that's close to 50,000 students. Um, district officials are expecting more students to come back as families start to hear about how well, how well things are going, but, um, we'll see how that goes. Speaker 1: 09:00 Why have some students chosen to stick with remote Speaker 5: 09:02 Learning? Um, from what I've heard from district officials, a lot of students who live in the parts of San Diego, um, areas in Southeast San Diego, for instance, uh, the, these neighborhoods have been hit hardest by the pandemic and these families feel sort of a little more anxious about sending their kids back. So a lot of these students have opted to stay home, Speaker 1: 09:24 Tell us about the safety procedures kids will have to. Speaker 5: 09:27 Yeah, so it's a lot of the same sort of protocols that we've been hearing about all year, you know, um, regular temperature checks, physical distancing students will be six feet apart. Uh, there'll be wearing masks or face coverings all day. And, uh, there will be regular testing for teachers and optional testing for students. So district officials are really encouraging families to take advantage of, of the testing programs. Speaker 1: 09:53 So I guess things like kids hugging each other after being a part so long, that stuff is not. Speaker 5: 09:59 Yeah, so definitely, definitely hugging is, is not allowed yet. Um, I spoke with one student this morning about how she's excited to be with friends and teachers. Uh, but then she sort of just stopped and realized, you know, uh, this day is probably going to be a lot more, um, more isolating than the school days were, uh, regularly. Um, she's gonna be, you know, separated from her friends. She won't be able to hug them or even shake any hands. Um, so yeah, things are still not quite there. Speaker 1: 10:31 And, uh, you know, classrooms are different too. How have they changed to avoid it? Speaker 5: 10:37 Yeah. So six feet of physical distancing. So D desks will be spaced out. Um, a huge sort of, uh, safety measure is going to be ventilation. Um, so there are new sort of high-tech air filters installed, uh, air purifiers, air monitors, uh, windows will be left open, um, to, to improve air circulation as well. Speaker 1: 11:01 What about changes to outside areas, arrows on where to walk and things like that? Speaker 5: 11:05 Yeah. So I think this is going to be one of the more surreal elements of going back to campus. There's just going to be signage everywhere, reminding students to stay distance, um, sort of directing students to the proper entrances and exits to, to reduce crowding and things like that. So the, the school campuses have definitely been in a way remapped for the COVID environment. Speaker 1: 11:31 Tell us if you would about the hybrid setup for this semester, how was remote learning still being used Speaker 5: 11:36 About 75% of the district schools right now are back for just four days a week. The remainder are back for two days a week. Remote learning is being used on the days that students are not on campus. And obviously for the students who have opted not to come back to school, they'll still be in distance learning all day. Speaker 1: 11:56 Yeah. There are concerns about how students are going to be able to adapt to the new normal of going to school. What are the major worries about that? Speaker 5: 12:03 I think it's twofold. So there's the obvious academic concerns. Um, but fortunately teachers kind of have a good sense of where all their students are and which ones are falling behind. So, you know, within, with more in-person instruction, now it's going to be easier to sort of work with those students. But I think the big concern is going to be students mental and emotional health. You know, after a year of learning through a computer screen, they could be coming back to school with all sorts of behaviors and, you know, maybe even traumas. So I think the big challenge for educators is going to be sort of reigniting a love of learning and a love of being back in the classroom, especially for the younger kids. Speaker 1: 12:43 Have you spoken with teachers? Are they glad to be back? Speaker 5: 12:47 Teachers are definitely glad to be back. You know, the past year has been a real challenge, especially because teaching is so built on those in-person relationships with students and to actually engage with students is, is super exciting for teachers now. Um, but teaching in person right now also comes with a lot of anxiety. You know, students are not vaccinated yet, which means there's still a risk of transmission and keeping, especially younger students, masked and distance is going to take a lot of work. So I think teachers are a bit worried about that. And, um, and of course, teachers are kind of doing double duty now with this in-person virtual learning hybrid. So keeping both student groups sort of engaged at the same time, that's going to be the main challenge in the coming weeks. Speaker 1: 13:32 I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Thank you. Thanks for having me. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Hyman. Our back to school special continues on midday edition marking the return to in-person instruction for San Diego County is the largest school district, but not every district in the County has made the same decisions for in-person and online instruction. Some have already returned to campus while others are continuing online, only instruction. We asked parents from around the County to share their thoughts about students returning to school in person. Here's a selection of some of the parents we heard from in their own words. Speaker 6: 14:22 My name is Shane Parmalee. I'm a mom of a freshman and a senior in high school. Uh, they go to Sweetwater district, uh, options, secondary school, and I have a 21 year old in college at Southwestern. So I am a teacher and we're bringing kids back on campus. Uh, personally, I absolutely chose to keep my kids home and I do not want to send them for in-person instruction. My senior in high school, it was actually fully vaccinated, but even so I would say still don't want to do in person learning. Obviously my 14 year old can't get a vaccine yet. Um, even if he was, we would still be at home because of the new variants that are coming out and the research that that shows, uh, we don't exactly know what we're in for. We see in San Diego that the schools are reopening at the same time as the bars and restaurants and gyms. Speaker 6: 15:17 And so I add a lot of, it's not even fair. It's just, I've watched how the cycle has happened several times by now. And it's pretty predictable. I think what we're going to see over the next couple of months, even with the vaccinations that some people are able to get or choosing to get. My name is Trisha Wilson and I am from Vista, California. My boys are just so excited to be back in person every day. They get to go a full day. I have a freshman and a senior, my senior who loves school. Um, he just became very quiet. He became very withdrawn. He became very depressed and he started to have multiple breakdowns. Um, and he's not someone who likes to, you know, voice his feelings and things do so it was very hard to watch as a mom and, um, and he was very lonely being away from school. Speaker 6: 16:12 So, um, and it, and it was also hard because their friends and their cousins and other States were going to school every day, playing sports, participating in programs. And that was very hard for them. Why can't, you know, why can't I do the same thing? So when our district decided to go back, full-time I just saw a complete changing their accountants. They love being back. Um, after their first day back in person, I asked, how did it go? And their quote to me was school in school is way better than school at home. So, um, they just, they're just so much happier and, um, so much more motivated and, um, they're just happier being back in school. And that makes me happy. Hi, Speaker 7: 17:03 My name is Shannon Johnson. Um, I'm a mother of two children. They attend nester language Academy and South Bay unified school district. And we are not returning to in class this year. You know, I, I find it extremely disappointing. Um, it's been deemed safe to return to in class, the CDC has revised their guidelines, um, are the kids just need to be around other children. They need to be in class, the virtual learning we've been doing it, but it's, it's not where their learning should be. Um, my daughter attended in class last year at nester and just so it's a language Academy. She was immersed in the school. She was way more advanced in her speaking than where my son is at now. He started kinder this year and it's just, you can tell that they need to be immersed in the language. It's been a huge disadvantage for our second language learners. Speaker 7: 18:04 Hi, my name is Devon Blake. Um, I have a five-year-old daughter who's in kindergarten and South Bay union school district. And I have a, almost two year old who's just in childcare. You know, we watched the board, um, meetings by zoom for the district and when they decided not to reopen at all for in-person and that the best we could hope for was a hybrid model for the next school year. We decided to actually enroll our kindergartner into a local Catholic school, which was open full-time in in-person. So that's what we've been doing since the beginning of March of this year. It's really important. Like, although our sort of immediate concern was solved by the local Catholic school. A lot of other people can't do that. Hi, my name is Heather Mac Moyle, and I have a daughter who's a sophomore 10th grade at Vista high school and Vista unified school district. Speaker 7: 19:02 I'd have to say that the teachers at Vista high school are, have done a great job doing the zooms and all that things, but it just doesn't, it's just not the same thing. An example I have is that just this week, one of her teachers had said that she didn't think that she should jump to the next level of math next year, because we were discussing her courses for next year. And after she returned to school this week, our teacher emailed me and said, Hey, I've watched her in class and wow, she's quite the mathematician. I really do think that she should go to the next level next year. And then we discuss steps to, to make that happen. But if she hadn't been in the classroom, the teacher would have no idea. So for my daughter, this has been way better. Those were some of the voices of parents from around San Diego County. Speaker 8: 20:00 As some schools navigate getting students back into the classroom. There are a lot of questions about how school districts will keep students safe while keeping their academics up to speed. Joining me from San Diego unified central bus yard is the superintendent of the district, Cindy Martin and president Biden's nominee for us, deputy secretary of education, superintendent Martin. Welcome. Thank you. So earlier in the show we heard about the air filtering systems. The district installed how classrooms have been rearranged and the new safety protocols for students and teachers. How much did, did the district invest to reopen schools? And do you expect that to cause any budget challenges in the future? Speaker 7: 20:42 I'm so glad you asked about that because safety has been our strategy since day one of this pandemic and Speaker 3: 20:48 The investment that we need to make, whether it's personal protective equipment and filtration equipment, the Merv filters, and all of the things we needed to do to put the safety mitigations in place definitely did cost money and that's essential. And so I want to say thank you to the people that have guided us on this. I'm Dr. Kim Prater from UC San Diego helped us understand the airborne nature of this virus and why it was important to invest more than $10 million into just that alone. Just getting sure that, making sure that the classrooms are ready from a filtration perspective and then add to that the PPE and upwards of $45 million, but there's been an investment, um, at the state and federal level. So we're really grateful for that type of investment and because of the investment at the state and federal level folks understood how important it was that the safety mitigations were in place, so that schools could go to full reopenings and doing what we're doing now facing these challenges. I'm happy to say we don't have any budget challenges. We've been given the funding that we need to put these mitigations in place. And we actually just certified our budget as positive certification. Speaker 8: 21:53 And speaking of safety, how is the district notifying families? If there are COVID-19 infections at their child's school? Speaker 3: 22:01 One of the things we invested in was for safety protocol is to have COVID-19 testing surveillance, testing on every campus every two weeks for our employees and for our students. And that testing is a whole testing and tracking system through our partnership with UCLA and U S CSD has been our partners since the beginning of being able to put the testing program and we've already had it up and running. It's expanding now, obviously with today, going to all of our schools, opening four days a week, the way we will notify families, if they've been impacted either they get a positive result in our COVID 19 testing, or they've been exposed to somebody who's positive. We send an email to the families that are impacted, and we have a nursing staff that's very engaged in being able to track down to using the program that we have with CSD. And I think it's important to families know that we have COVID-19 testing at every single one of our schools and a way to notify families. If we were to see a positive case somewhere, and thankfully we have a whole nursing staff in our nursing and wellness department, we have Dr. Howard terrorists. And from there, Susan barn dollar are helping us with making sure our nurses are following up on any positive case so that we can isolate and make sure that we don't spread. If there happens to be one. Speaker 8: 23:15 And let's talk about where students are at in their education right now, do you have a sense of how much learning loss there is among students? Speaker 3: 23:23 No. As a 17 year old classroom teacher, knowing where our students are is something I've spent my whole life doing. This is what teachers know how to do best. And that's what I know our teachers are doing today. They've been doing it online for those that have been virtual. Those have, who have already been in person more than 5,000 students started in September coming in person that we're always assessing where our students are and what they need next. That's what that's like the core of what a teacher knows how to do. And what today represents is how we begin our recovery, looking at how our students are doing assessing social emotional needs. And when I say assessing and talking about what a teacher knows how to do, but eyes on students use those common formative assessments that are close to the student, seeing how they're doing the whole child approach to how the, how the students are doing. And then you make decisions after that. And I think because recovery starts today in our path forward is we want all students to have access to what they need as we reengage in this recovery. And that's why we're planning a very robust summer school model. We want to have any student who wants to continue their learning throughout the summer to be able to participate in our summer learning approach. And that will make that available to everybody. Speaker 8: 24:34 And you touched on, on mental health, um, in your previous answer, you know, I mean, aside from having to learn remotely and missing out on milestones and impersonal social interaction, many students loft lost loved ones in this pandemic, and they never got to say goodbye. How will the district address the mental and emotional health of students? Speaker 3: 24:55 This is so crucial. And I want to thank you for acknowledging it because I know what it means to be able to face loss. And how does an individual heal from a loss? How does a family heal from a loss and how does a whole community heal from a loss everybody's healing journey is different and personal, but people need help in their healing journey. And that's why we have given our counselors and our school staff, extra support to know how to see what do our children need, where are they in their journey of healing? What has happened to them? And we don't want to just pretend like nothing happened, things have happened. And what has happened to your family? What has happened to you when somebody has gone through trauma and talk about trauma informed practices, our counselors have specific training around trauma informed care. Speaker 3: 25:41 And when trauma informed care says, we don't, we don't ask what's wrong with you. We say what happened to you? What's happening with you, what's happening with your family. And when you can engage in a trauma informed approach and see meeting students and families where they are understanding truly what they faced is really important. And some glad that you brought it up. I think we have to be very vigilant about that. And I'd like to say to all of our families, as they sent kids back to school today, talk to your students, ask them how their day went, talk to the teachers. If you think your child is experiencing, they've lost a family member and maybe they seem okay, but they've never really processed that grief. They're not understanding what this grief and loss is. It will come up later and we want to be able to address now where the pain or the heartbreak might be because we have special training to know what to do. And please talk to us, talk to the teacher, talk to the counselors, talk to the principal, tell us what your family has been experienced and know that our counselors are trained to be able address the losses that our families and our communities have experienced. Speaker 8: 26:47 And tell me this, I want to switch now a bit back to their education. Will virtual learning continue to be available for students who say can't return to the classroom, maybe due to a compromised immune system, for example. Speaker 3: 27:00 Yeah. We've heard from our families that there are families, um, that parents may have a compromised immune system or students themselves may have that as they may be caring for somebody. So we want to make sure our job is to meet the needs of all of our students and those students who need to stay at home and continue to learn virtually need to continue to have a high quality experience. What we are hearing back from our families as they give us feedback on our next steps towards recovery. 25% of our families have told us that they want to stay online and continue learning virtually it's working for their student, or it's a necessity for the family, for whatever health reasons they may be facing. And we need to have compassionate empathy for that. And a family that needs to continue learning from home online. Their student Nate needs to be able to have as much of a rich experience as possible in the online setting. Speaker 3: 27:55 And we want that to continue for as long as it's as is necessary for as many students that are requesting that as a need for that, they have it for me, the way I plan for this. So when there's so many multiple things that our families and students need, it's really about options. Are we making sure that we are flexible and have options to meet the needs that our families and our students are telling us that they have, where can't be a one size fits all model. This is a highly complex, very challenging, sometimes emotionally challenging and physically challenging. And we need to listen to our families and make sure we're providing what they need when they need it in the way that they need it. And that online option is very much alive and well and necessary for many families who have told us, please don't stop the online option. It is working my students doing well. We have somebody very sick, dying of cancer at home, and I need my child to keep learning and it's working. Don't make don't change it. And so we have to keep that going for those families where it's necessary. And it's working. Speaker 8: 28:55 I've been speaking with San Diego unified superintendent, Cindy Martin from the districts bus yard. Martin is also president Biden's nominee for us, a deputy secretary of education, superintendent Martin. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. Speaker 1: 29:16 In the lead up to today's school, reopening teachers have been juggling a variety of concerns. Getting students back in class has always been the goal, but at the same time, making sure both the kids and teachers can do that safely. Now, many teachers are vaccinated and classrooms have been rearranged for distance and ventilation, but the pressure hasn't ended for teachers as they welcome back students who may have suffered substantial learning loss in the last year. And they also take on a dual role of teaching both in-person and keeping up distance learning for families who are still wary about sending their kids back to school. Joining me is Kesha Borden. She's president of the San Diego education association and Kesha. Speaker 7: 30:00 Welcome. Thank you so much. Now, Speaker 1: 30:02 How have teachers been preparing for this? Speaker 7: 30:05 Um, in several different ways, some of our educators have not been to their classrooms since last March, or I've only been in a few times to gather materials. So one thing that's been really important is making sure that their classrooms are, are ready and prepared to welcome students back in a lot of ways. That feels like the first day of school. Um, many of our students are, have not been on campus until today. So our educators really want it to make sure their classrooms were welcoming and just wanted to make sure we were prepared for our students much in the same way we prepare for the first day of school. Speaker 1: 30:43 I imagine there's a lot that's new and different about teaching in this new normal we find ourselves in. What do you see as the biggest changes? Speaker 7: 30:51 Well, just the initial transition to online learning. That was a huge transition. Um, in many of our school communities, um, we weren't able to do any type of online learning, um, because many of our families didn't have access to wifi at home. They didn't have devices available to them. So many of our educators had not had any experience with online teaching. So that was a huge transition. Um, so that's very different. And so over this past school year, our educators have gotten much more comfortable with that. They spend a lot of time over the summer learning and preparing for that. And so by this point, I would say most of our educators are very comfortable with that. So now we have another transition, something totally different, which is the job of online teaching. Now adding in our in-person students as well, and trying to navigate how we continue to provide a robust, robust instruction for our students remaining online, as well as returning to in-person instruction and balancing that and making sure all of our students are engaged and part of the classroom community. So that's a whole nother transition that our educators are making. It's almost like adding a whole nother job because online teaching was a full-time job and then some, and so now adding back the in-person teaching, it's challenging. Speaker 1: 32:23 What have you heard from teachers about how they're feeling going back to in-person teaching Speaker 7: 32:29 There's a wide range of emotions. Of course, educators are anxious about the combination of in-person and online at the same time. So that's causing lot of anxiety and wanting to make sure all of our students are engaged, but then there's also excitement about meeting their students. Face-to-face for some it's the very first time for a lot of our students, freshmen and kindergartners, it's their first time on a school campus or on a high school campus. So there's a lot of excitement around that. And as I said, in a lot of ways, it feels like the first day of school. So that's always a mix of emotions, excitement, and a little anxiety and making sure everything goes well. Speaker 1: 33:13 Now it's my understanding that all teachers have been given the opportunity to be vaccinated. Are teachers required to get vaccinated? Speaker 7: 33:21 No, at this point there is no vaccination requirement. Um, our agreement just made sure that all those who want it to be vaccinated would have the opportunity to be vaccinated before they returned to in-person teaching. Speaker 1: 33:35 Do you have an idea of what percentage of teachers have decided to get vaccinated? Speaker 7: 33:40 Don't it was anticipated that we would all go through our healthcare portal. Um, we all have VBA, however, many of our educators went to drug stores or went to their own medical providers. So there really isn't a good way to tell exactly how many educators were vaccinated Speaker 1: 33:58 As the head of the local teacher's union. You were not initially thrilled about the governor's plan for reopening schools what's changed that makes this reopening acceptable. Speaker 7: 34:09 Initially it was concerning that the governor was offering huge amounts of money to districts to open. And it really wasn't equitable. Those districts that were in communities that had very low community infection rates were able to open. And in many cases, those were the districts that didn't really need the additional funding. Whereas our school district, many portions of our district, many of our communities were experiencing very high infection rates and it just wasn't safe to open. And those are the exact same communities that needed the extra funding. So it just, it didn't feel equitable. Um, but again, we worked with the district. Um, we got all of our, um, safety protocols and safety mitigations in place to really just be as safe as possible. We have testing at every school site. Every two weeks, high schools are weekly, um, to accommodate all of the student athletes experts in their field nationally, um, have been consulting with the district to make sure our ventilation is, is correct the PPE. So with all of that combined, we feel that it's it's as safe as it can be right now. And if we keep our community case rates low, I know we've seen a slight uptick in San Diego's infection rates. If we can keep those low, I think we can provide the stability that our students and not have to continually Speaker 9: 35:38 Close and open due to outbreaks. Okay. Then I've been speaking with Keisha Borden, president of the San Diego education association. Keisha, thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Speaker 8: 35:55 Our back to school special continues on midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh as more of San Diego's adult population receives their first and second doses of the vaccine. Most children are not yet authorized to get the vaccine and as variant proved to be more infectious and cause more severe illness, it has children who are now among the most vulnerable population. So as schools decide to reopen and kids go back to the classroom and start playing sports. What can be done to protect them, especially while clinical vaccine trials for minors are still underway. Dr. Steven specter, a professor of pediatrics and member of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at UC San Diego has answers Dr. Specter. Welcome. Speaker 9: 36:40 Thank you for having me. So today Speaker 8: 36:42 Parents in San Diego are sending their children back to school without the insurance of vaccination against the virus. How concerned should parents be now that their children are returning to the classroom? Speaker 9: 36:54 Well, I think that there has been a lot of effort that has gone into mitigating the risk for children as they go back to school. Again, the CDC has published guidelines that indicate that children should at least be three feet apart and that they should be wearing a mask in school. In addition to that, the studies that have been done that have looked at transmission in school have in fact shown that the transmission of COVID-19 in schools is very low and it's very low among children. And it is low from teachers as well. And what the data has shown is in fact, when teachers become infected, they are most likely to have infected, not from being in school and being exposed to children. But in fact, being exposed either to other teachers or being exposed to people when they are at home. Speaker 8: 37:56 Now, early on in the pandemic, children were deemed as having a relatively low risk for developing more serious side effects after contracting COVID-19. But more recently, we have seen the risk shift to younger demographics. Can you explain how that shift in risk from older to younger, Speaker 9: 38:13 With the increase in the numbers of adults and particularly older adults that are highest risk have increasingly been immunized and with the successful vaccines are protected from COVID-19 so that the demographics have shifted to a younger population. However, it is to a great the population 20 to 40 years of age. And although children do compose an increasing proportion of the population that are identified as infected, it is still that children having serious infection with COVID-19 is quite uncommon that doesn't imply that it doesn't happen, but again, it's less common than it would occur. Certainly in older people who are over the 65 years of age, and again, the dominant population that are being hospitalized are those between 20 and 40 years of age. Speaker 8: 39:12 No researchers out of the university of Minnesota for example, are finding that the [inaudible] variant that's the variant first discovered in the UK, that variant is 50 to 100% more infectious than the original strain and causes more severe illness, 50 to 60% of the time. So do you think there's been enough research at this point to know if students are at a higher risk? Speaker 9: 39:37 Well, what we know about the variant is that it is more infectious. It can cause at least in adults, a higher rate of illness, we don't know with certainty, whether or not that will occur in children or not. And I think data are being accumulated to determine whether or not that is the case. But I think what you're also doing is making a very strong argument for why children need to be immunized. And certainly that is one of the major emphasis is of the pharmaceutical companies. Now I'm sure that you've seen the data that Pfizer recently put out about their vaccine and teens between 12 and 16 years of age that showed very similar efficacy as to what they saw are in their adult studies. But during it, and Johnson and Johnson are doing studies as well to look at that group. And we CSD will be starting very soon to look at a younger population between six months of age and those less than 12 years. And we hope to be starting that study very shortly. I think the important message here is that it is safe for children to be going back to school, but that does not decrease the importance of getting these vaccines to children as soon as we can. Speaker 8: 41:05 What are some of the best ways that parents and educators can ensure the safety of students as the school year ramps up? Speaker 9: 41:11 Well, it will be important that teachers and students and those who are involved with schools follow the CDC recommendations to be at least three feet apart when at school to be wearing mass. And I think to really use common sense. Again, what we have learned is transmission is less likely to occur through surface contact, but still I think that good hand washing is going to be very important for all of us as we go forward. Speaker 8: 41:44 And what is your sense of when the vaccine will be available for adolescents at at least? Is there a general consensus in the medical community of how long this might take? Speaker 9: 41:54 Well, I think with the data from Pfizer coming out and hopefully from other studies that are ongoing now, my expectation is by the fall, we will be able to immunize those children who are 12 years of age and older for those younger children. I think it'll take a longer period of time and that my expectation would be however that by the late fall or certainly by the end of this year, we should have vaccines that are available for those children who are between six years and less than 12 years. It'll take a bit longer for those children who are younger only because those studies take a longer period of time to do. And my expectation would be that in the first or second quarter of 2022, that we will have vaccines for the youngest children, as well Speaker 8: 42:50 As you, you said before, you don't think we should wait until a significant portion of the student population has been vaccinated before reopening schools. Why is that? Especially after what we don't know and what we're still learning about these variants, Speaker 9: 43:05 Occasionally it is very clear that children need to be back in school. And increasingly we are finding out that at home learning and zoom learning is not as effective as in-person classes. The socialization is very important, particularly for young children, adolescents also, and we are learning that depression and other associated difficulties are being found in our youth who have lacked the socialization students and parents are very interested in getting back to athletics. And so I think that there are many reasons why getting back to school is important. Speaker 8: 43:49 I've been speaking with Dr. Steven specter, professor of pediatrics and a member of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at UC San Diego. Dr. Spectrum, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 9: 44:00 Thank you.

San Diego Unified, San Diego County's largest school district, welcomed students back to campus Monday. About half of the district's students opted to return to the classroom, while the other half will continue learning remotely.