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Vista Unified School District
In Vista, elementary students will continue in-person instruction, while secondary students remain in virtual-only learning models. Photo by Dan Brendel
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Carlsbad, Vista school districts delay reopening for middle, high schools

REGION — Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest decision to return San Diego and 10 other counties back to the purple tier on Monday will not have an impact on school reopenings, according to Carlsbad Unified School District Superintendent Ben Churchill.

Last week, the California Department of Public Health released new in-person instruction guidelines, leaving school districts with several options and obstacles to reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Carlsbad and Vista Unified school districts’ each recently approved a reopening plan in compliance with the state’s Department of Public Health’s requirements.

Carlsbad Unified will allow elementary students to return to campus on Jan. 25 for five days per week from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Secondary students will not be allowed to return until San Diego County drops into the red tier of the state’s system.

In Vista, elementary students will also remain in-person, while secondary students remain in virtual-only learning models. However, Vista Unified’s supplemental programs will continue with in-person for students who are at high-risk, such as foster, homeless and English learners.

“The Department of Health are the ones that changed the rules, not the union, and we legally can’t (fully) reopen until in the red tier,” Churchill said, addressing a number of parents calling for the district to immediately reopen.

For Carlsbad students, if the county moves back into the red tier, middle and high school will have to stay in their respective cohorts all day during in-person instruction. Additionally, social distancing would require six feet of space between teachers and students, and at least four feet of separation between students, Churchill said.

Churchill and school district administrators also discussed the recent installation of air filters at school sites, including 275 HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. Regarding vaccines, Churchill said he doesn’t believe the status of vaccinations for educators would change anything as far as getting kids back into school.

As for prep sports, Assistant Superintendent Rob Nye said there will be just two seasons this year. The first season starting on Feb. 1 for the purple tier includes cross country and swimming and diving. The second season, which covers spring sports, is currently looking at only boys and girls golf, tennis and track.

But as for parents, many said they felt hopeless that their kids may not return to school for the rest of the year.

“The brain breeds atrophy in isolation,” said Sharon McKeeman. “We relied on data for certain populations … and ignored drastic damage and risks to our children. We have been able to open since September. … but the State bows to the California Teachers Association.”

Lindsey Gordon, president of the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association, said the union and district are working to meet the new guidelines and by doing it safely. She said teachers want to return to the classroom, while special education and elementary teachers have been working hard with the current in-person curriculum.

“This is not a reflection with kids returning and everything with doing safely,” Gordon said “We want to interact with students. I love the students that I teach. We are teaching in ways never been done before.”

The Carlsbad school district and teachers’ union agreed to a new memorandum of understanding prior to the school board’s Jan. 20 meeting.

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