‘Pandemic is not under control’: San Diego Unified will start school this fall with online learning

Fifth grader Johnny Moore, 10 from Perkins Elementary School, uses a laptop in February.
The San Diego Unified School District will delay reopening campuses this fall and will start the school year with online learning.

San Diego Unified School District leaders will delay the physical reopening of schools this fall and instead start the school year with online learning for safety reasons, officials said, citing spikes in coronavirus cases in the region.

“One fact is clear: Those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither,” San Diego Unified said in a joint statement released July 13 with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.”

San Diego Unified is sticking to its original school start date of Aug. 31 and will start by providing online-only learning for at least the first week.

The district on June 16 had approved a fall reopening plan that would let families choose from on-campus learning, online learning and a blend of the two, with several state and county safety guidelines in effect.

San Diego Unified plans to reassess the situation Aug. 10, three weeks before the start of school.

When it reassesses, the district will consider whether there is sufficient testing and additional federal funding to reopen and to what extent the coronavirus is under control.

The two districts acknowledged that parents — many of whom were counting on schools to reopen to provide child care — will be disappointed.

They also acknowledged indirectly that school closures, online learning and incomplete access to technology are believed to have caused massive learning losses for many students, particularly low-income students.

“This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August,” the districts said.

“It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand.”

San Diego and Los Angeles are the second-largest and largest school districts in California, respectively. San Diego has 102,000 students.

They are not the only ones that have decided to delay reopening campuses.

Sweetwater Union High School District, San Diego County’s second-largest district, with 39,000 students, had already announced that it will start the school year with some weeks of online learning. Sweetwater is in south San Diego County, where coronavirus cases are higher than many other areas.