San Diego Unified says it’s on track to reopen April 12, but it’s unclear exactly what school will look like

Student desks and chairs are spaced several feet apart in a classroom at newly rebuilt Hoover High School in San Diego.
Student desks and chairs are spaced several feet apart in a classroom at Hoover High School on March 12. The newly-rebuilt campus was supposed to open to students last fall but has yet to welcome students back because of the pandemic.
(Kristen Taketa/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

District is waiting on parent survey results to see how many families will return


San Diego Unified officials say they are on track to meet their target reopening date of April 12, while details such as how much time students will spend in person at school have yet to be decided.

Those details will depend partly on results of a district-wide parent survey that is closing Friday night.

The district plans to reopen the week of April 12 for hybrid learning, meaning students will only be able to attend in person for part of the school day or week and will continue learning online for the rest of the time.

The district says hybrid learning is necessary to reduce the number of students on campus at a time, to allow for adequate social distancing.

The district survey asks parents whether they want their children to return to school for hybrid learning or whether they want to keep them home in distance learning. While many parents are itching for their students to go back to school, several parents, especially parents in disadvantaged neighborhoods, have said they want their students to stay home for their family’s safety.

“We’re confident that it will be a good experience for the kids who come back and will continue to be a … quality experience for the kids who stay home,” said San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera at a press event Friday at the newly-rebuilt Hoover High School in City Heights.

Last year the Hoover campus finished a $47 million, bond-funded renovation, including a new classroom building with 20 classrooms, a 500-seat performing arts theater, culinary arts facility and expanded parking lot.

Meanwhile, as the county nears the one-year school closure anniversary of March 13, parents are raising pressure on school districts and the state to reopen schools now.

This week three San Diego Unified parents filed a class-action lawsuit against the district for failing to provide in-person learning to all students. Parents across the state are planning rallies this weekend to protest the fact that many schools remain closed to most students.

There will be a rally in San Diego at Waterfront Park on Saturday at 10 a.m.

“Science, research and experience clearly demonstrate schools in San Diego can be reopened safely and they must if we care at all about the well being and the future of our young people,” said the North County-based Parent Association, which has been calling for schools to reopen immediately, in a statement Friday.

In addition to collecting parent survey responses, San Diego Unified has been negotiating with its teachers union, the San Diego Education Association, on what the hybrid model will look like.

Barrera said the goal is to have students on campus for full school days either twice or four times a week. The district will give schools flexibility to design schedules and classroom arrangements depending on how many families come back and how big classrooms are, he said.

“The real sort of constraint is how many students can you fit in a classroom at once and still keep them properly distanced,” Barrera said.

A big priority for the district is keeping students with their same teachers, he said, because officials do not want to disrupt students’ learning by breaking relationships with teachers many have had since the start of the school year.

Kisha Borden, president of the teachers union, said a challenge to ensuring students keep their teachers is figuring out how to teach both distance learning students and in-person students — all while making sure the quality of education doesn’t suffer for either group.

“That’s part of the planning and the struggle in creating this plan for in-person learning, is just making sure that both groups of students are receiving quality instruction,” Borden said.

The district says it has put several safety measures in place for classrooms.

For example, every classroom has either an MERV-13 air filter installed or a portable air purifier, said Drew Rowlands, chief operations officer for the district.

There will be monitors in every building that show how much carbon dioxide is in the air and the concentration of air particulates, or substances floating in the air, Rowlands said. Monitoring carbon dioxide concentration is a way to measure whether a room is being properly ventilated.

Masks will be required of staff and students in all grade levels, and student chairs must be placed no less than four feet apart in classrooms, according to state guidelines.

Teachers will return to school the week of April 5, one week ahead of students, to get training on school safety measures and to prepare for students’ return.