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New petition supports San Diego Unified’s slow campus reopening

San Diego Unified School District headquarters
A new petition supports the San Diego Unified School District’s position that classrooms should remain closed for now. An earlier petition demanded that the district set a reopening timeline.
(File)

A recent parent protest demanding that the San Diego Unified School District reopen campuses has spurred a competing group of parents who agree with the district that classrooms should remain closed for now.

More than 840 people have signed a petition posted last week that supports the district’s phased and “science-based approach” to reopening. The petition refers to a panel of UC San Diego science and health experts who recommended in August that San Diego Unified adopt more stringent reopening standards than the state’s.

The district currently has no tentative date for reopening from its coronavirus-related campus closures. It is expected to offer limited in-person support sessions to as many as 12,000 vulnerable students in the next few weeks, but it’s unclear exactly when those sessions will begin. Only until after those sessions go successfully will the district consider reopening in-person learning to more students.

Earlier this month, a parent group called Reopen SDUSD vented frustration that the district is taking so long to reopen while other districts are forging ahead. More than a dozen of San Diego County’s 42 school districts have already reopened for at least part-time in-person instruction with safety measures in place, and several more are scheduled to reopen in October.

Parents and advocates have argued that keeping children home harms many students’ emotional and physical well-being and that many children are falling behind because distance learning is ineffective for them.

Parents who support the district’s approach say they’re not against reopening but they agree with the district that it should wait until it’s safer.

They worry that San Diego Unified — the state’s second-largest school district, with 100,000 students — could open a floodgate of COVID-19 coronavirus cases.

“We’re just asking the board to continue doing what they’re doing, to listen to the scientists and be very cautious in the ways that they open the schools, especially as we’re walking into flu season,” said petition organizer Lisa Delano-Wood, a UC San Diego associate professor of psychiatry and mother of a district fourth-grader.

Delano-Wood said she and fellow parents support bringing back vulnerable groups of students who need in-person learning. While her daughter has been taking to Zoom classes well, she acknowledged that other students are struggling.

She said she doubts whether the district would be able to afford a safe reopening for all students. District officials have repeatedly called for more funding from the federal government to afford reopening costs.

“San Diego Unified, being as large as they are, they simply cannot afford to reopen all schools at the same time in a safe manner, so it really comes down to resources,” Delano-Wood said.

Many studies suggest that children are less likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, but it’s still unclear whether children transmit the coronavirus at lower levels than adults. A review published Sept. 25 of 32 studies about COVID-19 in children found that children and teenagers had a 44 percent lower chance of secondary coronavirus infection compared with adults, but data were insufficient to see if children transmit COVID-19 less than adults.

On Sept. 29, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study that raised concern about the increasing share of child COVID-19 cases in the country as more schools reopen.

In April, child cases made up 2 percent of all cases nationwide. As of this month, they made up 10 percent. The academy noted that data are limited and there may be a number of children who are infected but have not been tested.


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