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Protesters leave their signs on the doorstep of the San Dieguito Union High School District office building on September 24 in Encinitas. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg
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California teachers union requests San Dieguito ‘cease and desist’ reopening plans

ENCINITAS — The legal department of California’s largest teachers’ union has requested San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) immediately halt its current reopening plans, which it claims are the “wrong step at the wrong time” and a violation of state law.

York Chang, staff attorney for the California Teachers’ Association (CTA), sent a cease-and-desist letter on Dec. 9 to Superintendent Robert Haley on behalf of the San Dieguito Faculty Association, alleging the San Diego County Office of Education had provided the school district “inaccurate” advice with regards to expanding in-person hybrid instruction.

According to Chang’s letter, statewide public health orders prohibit school districts that operated small “cohorts” while in the state’s red tier “from using these operations as a pretext for reopening to general in-person instruction” during the most restrictive purple tier.

Chang also referenced a separate letter his office issued to County Superintendent Paul Gothhold and Executive Director Bob Mueller, expressing “grave concerns” the county’s Office of Education “has apparently trained and advised school districts to violate California Department of Public Health legal orders.”

Chang, writing on behalf of San Marcos Education Association, San Dieguito Faculty Association and Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association, asked the county’s Office of Education to instruct its school districts to “cease in-person instruction that was initiated 14 days out of purple tier,” with the exception of previously approved small group instruction and other waivers.

San Dieguito Union High School District issued a Dec. 13 statement denying the union’s claims.

“The district did not, and is not, relying on advice from the (San Diego County Office of Education) for our expanded reopening plans,” the district’s statement reads. “The controlling authority regarding whether schools can open or expand openings in San Diego County is the Public Health Officer, Dr. (Wilma) Wooten. She issues orders, which we are required to follow. We have been in constant contact with her staff and rely on them for guidance.

“The Chief Resilience Officer for San Diego County is responsible for compliance and he has assured us that unless a written clarification comes from California Department of Public Health that changes San Diego County’s interpretation of existing guidance, we can continue to expand our reopening. If we do receive updated guidance from San Diego County that indicates we must pause or change our expanded reopening plans, we will comply.”

After Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order earlier this month, San Dieguito Union High School District announced on Dec. 4 the latest mandate “does not modify existing state guidance regarding K-12 schools.”

“Our schools remain open and will continue to provide targeted support for small priority groups of students to ensure our most vulnerable students can access in-person teaching and learning,” the district wrote. “School sites will also continue expanding access for groups of students to be on campus.”

The district appears to remain steadfast in achieving its goal of offering a limited in-person instruction option and online learning options for students beginning the week of January 4, 2021.

The Coast News will continue to follow this developing story.