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Most San Diego County school districts have reopened or plan to reopen in October

Students in line at Joan McQueen Middle School in Alpine Union, which opened Sept. 21.
Students line up at Joan McQueen Middle School in the small, rural Alpine Union School District, which reopened for hybrid learning on Sept. 21.
(Alpine Union School District)

Meanwhile a few South County districts are staying closed for rest of 2020.

More than five weeks after the first schools in San Diego County were allowed to reopen, most of San Diego County’s school districts have either reopened or have opening dates set for October.

Many are reopening first by bringing back the youngest students or by offering hybrid learning, where students attend for part of the week or day and continue with distance learning part time.

Grossmont Union High is phasing in reopening by first having students attend in-person one day a week. Santee and Poway are having students attend for half a school day. Still others are like Alpine Union, which has students attend in-person a couple of days a week.

When looking at timelines for districts reopening, it’s clear that district size matters. Most of the districts that have reopened are small.

Rancho Santa Fe School District, which has about 560 students, was the only San Diego-area district to open on the first day schools were allowed to. Del Mar Union, with 4,100 students, and Julian Union High, with about 100 students, opened two weeks later.

Meanwhile at least three school districts, all in South County, have said they will stay closed for the rest of 2020 — Sweetwater Union High, San Ysidro and South Bay Union.

Officials at those districts have stressed that South County has had more COVID-19 cases than any other part of the county, and they’re staying closed until the coronavirus situation improves in their ZIP codes.

School districts that are remaining closed have said student and staff safety are most important to them and that they want to give families predictability to plan ahead.

“While we know that distance learning is not ideal, please know that our teachers and instructional team are committed to ensuring that every student feels connected to their teachers, other support staff, and peers,” South Bay Superintendent Katie McNamara said in a statement.

Most of the school districts that have committed to staying closed the longest all serve high numbers of socioeconomically disadvantaged students. In San Ysidro, 74 percent of students are from low-income families, and a quarter are homeless. In Sweetwater, 60 percent are from low-income families, and in South Bay Union, 72 percent are.

The opposite is not necessarily true about the early opening schools. Some that already opened have high numbers of low-income students while others don’t. Among the early openers, 51 percent of Julian Union High students and 70 percent of Cajon Valley students are from low-income families, but only 4 percent of Rancho Santa Fe students and 8 percent of Del Mar students are similarly disadvantaged.

San Diego County’s school reopening pattern appears to follow a trend across the country of school closures more likely to affect districts with a majority of students of color. A national survey conducted by the Associated Press and Chalkbeat found that the Whiter school districts are, the more likely they were to start the school year with in-person learning than districts serving mostly students of color, which raises equity concerns.

While disadvantaged students arguably would benefit from in-person learning the most, they also are more likely to live in communities that have a high prevalence or risk of coronavirus exposure, school officials have said.

Some districts, like San Diego Unified, have not set a date for reopening for most of their students, but they are offering limited in-person support sessions for select groups of students. San Diego Unified’s sessions will start Oct. 13 and are geared toward students with learning loss and students with high needs for special education.

Here are some local districts that have reopened for in-person learning for all students or for students in certain grades, according to district websites and emails from superintendents. These do not reflect reopening dates for limited, select groups of students only:

  • Rancho Santa Fe: Aug. 24
  • Del Mar Union: Sept. 8
  • Julian Union High: Sept. 8
  • Cajon Valley Union: Sept. 9
  • Alpine Union: Sept. 21
  • Encinitas Union: Sept. 21
  • Lakeside Union: Sept. 21
  • San Pasqual Union: Sept. 21
  • Solana Beach: Sept. 21
  • Santee: Sept. 24
  • Carlsbad Unified: Sept. 28
  • Julian Union: Sept. 28
  • Grossmont Union High: Sept. 29

Here are districts that have announced reopening dates, according to district websites:

These districts are closed indefinitely or do not have set reopening dates:

  • Escondido Union High: closed until at least Nov. 6
  • Lemon Grove
  • San Diego Unified
  • San Dieguito Union High
  • San Ysidro: closed until at least January
  • South Bay Union: closed until at least January
  • Sweetwater Union High: closed until at least January

Some district leaders did not respond to questions about opening dates or did not post information about opening dates on their websites.

— Kristen Taketa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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