Months will pass before San Diego K-12 students return to campus

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The San Diego Unified School District announced Monday that officials are working on a plan to get students back in the classroom, but it will be "months, not weeks" before that occurs.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom had set strict guidelines for school re-openings in mid-July saying that school campuses in 32 of the counties hardest hit by Covid-19 weren’t likely to reopen at the beginning of the school year.

The California Legislature has been wrestling with how to alleviate some of the financial pressure on the state’s schools from the increased cost of providing online teaching and also figuring out how to provide access for students who don’t have a computer or internet access in their home.

San Diego Unified School District buses, which are likely to remain parked for the foreseeable future.

State campuses when they do reopen will have mask requirements for students and teachers, as well as COVID-19 testing and social distancing recommendations for teachers and school staff, according to California Department of Public Health guidelines Newsom released in July.

The restrictions applied to both public and private schools located in the counties on the state’s monitoring list of areas where COVID-19 numbers were rising. Those schools will reopen with online classes until they have implemented measures that make it safer for students to return.

San Diego school officials said they are developing measures in consultation with top experts on multiple aspects of the pandemic from the University of California, San Diego.

“Conditions for reopening local schools will be stricter than state standards, will proceed in phases, and will require critical protective measures including mandatory masks, proper ventilation, and strict social distancing according to district leaders,” according to a statement released by SDUSD.

The state's second-largest school district, with more than 122,000 students, begins the new school year Aug. 31.

“We consulted with the world’s leading experts on all aspects of this pandemic, because we wanted a comprehensive set of standards to create the safest possible environment for our students and staff,” said Dr. Howard Taras, UCSD professor and consulting pediatrician for San Diego Unified, who oversaw the expert panel. “The strength in these new standards comes precisely from this combination of factors. Taken together, they represent the strictest reasonable conditions for safety when operations eventually resume.”

State standards for reopening schools require a seven-day testing positivity rate of less than 8% and other factors, but the expert panel convened by San Diego Unified would add contact tracing metrics.

San Diego schools created a list of recommended metrics and mitigations that schools in the district must meet before they are cleared for re-opening.

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