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Carlsbad Unified addressing all possible areas for re-opening schools

CARLSBAD — A decision is coming July 22, but for now, the administrators and staff in the Carlsbad Unified School District are preparing for several reopening plans.

During a special Board of Trustees meeting July 8, it directed CUSD staff to continue building out several scenarios for the district in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those include a five-day per week in-person plan, a hybrid model of distance and in-person learning and a virtual-only program at Seaside Academy in conjunction with the in-person option, said CUSD Superintendent Ben Churchill.

But due to the fluidity of the situation, a full return may not be possible when school resumes on Aug. 25. Also, the district will not hold in-person high school graduation ceremonies and will replace those with drive-through commencements. During the meeting, Churchill noted the city has seen double the number of coronavirus cases the past two weeks.

Additionally, the county reports more than 1,500 cases for ages 0 to 9 and 10 to 19, which is just under 10% in county.

“We’re developing a distance learning format in the case that a school needs to close down because of a COVID case, or in case the whole district needs to shut down like we did in the spring,” Churchill said. 

Parents, meanwhile, covered the spectrum of how the district should move forward, with many in favor of in-person learning, others wanting a hybrid and some calling for distance-only education.

Parents in favor of in-person schooling pointed to a survey showing 63% of parents want kids to return to school; however, the survey was conducted in May. Churchill said another survey will be released next week and brought before the board on July 22.

As for masks, he said the district is waiting for more direction from the San Diego County Office of Education, public health and state officials. Churchill said the district is interpreting the current orders to require teachers and staff to wear coverings at all times.

Regardless, one of the toughest student populations to consider is special education. Churchill said those students and families will be consulted individually to find the best path forward for them, especially those with moderate to severe conditions.

“We will maintain small class sizes, make sure that they can access as much in-person education as possible,” he added. “What we’ll really double down on is training our staff to make sure they have the support and the resources they need to meet the special needs of these kids.”

Principals Kim Fuentes (Calavera Hills Elementary School), Rose Flowers, (Aviara Oaks Middle School) and Jesse Schuveiller (Sage Creek High School) each updated the board on new policies and guidelines.

Each level of school will have staggered starting and end times as to minimize the number of students passing through entry points. All three campuses will have multiple access points for students, although visitors will not be allowed.

As for the classrooms, the principals are removing chairs to ensure a six-foot distance in line with social distancing requirements, along with activating other spaces to avoid crowds and potential use as learning areas.

The change in schedule will also affect elective classes and what may be offered, Flowers and Schuveiller said. In essence, all aspects of a school’s campus will see dramatic changes.

“We have to change drop-off location, eliminate gathering places and place students in designated areas for brunch and lunch,” Flowers said.

“For lunch, we may add plexiglass shields across the tables, add more service stations and more campus monitors,” Fuentes added.

And while the district is rapidly working on a multi-layered approach, including plans schools may be ordered to shut down in the coming months, there is a silver lining, Churchill said. Construction projects as part of Measure HH, a $265 million school bond passed in 2018.

Churchill said since the school closures, some projects slated for June were moved up to May and it appears those projects in the first phase are ahead of schedule. They may even come in under budget, he added.