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County allows schools to reopen Sept. 1; CUSD keeps virtual learning plans

CARLSBAD — Schools can reopen for in-person learning on Sept. 1, according to San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten.

Wooten made the announcement at an Aug. 25 briefing and it includes all public and private K-12 schools. However, the final decision as to when a school will reopen remains with the school districts and private school leadership.

On Aug. 18, the state of California removed San Diego County from its watchlist, reflecting that coronavirus cases in the county have fallen below certain state-mandated thresholds.

As for the Carlsbad Unified School District, Superintendent Ben Churchill said the district will remain with its virtual plans for the district’s schools for the first several weeks. Elementary schools will be online for the first four weeks through Sept. 21, while middle and high schools will conduct distance learning for the first grading period through Oct. 9.

“We’ll transition to in-person instruction after that point,” Churchill said, noting it depends on whether the county remains off the watchlist. “We expect to have more details about what in-person instruction will look like at the Sept. 9 board meeting.”

If the county finds itself back on the watchlist, the process starts again. The county must have 14 consecutive days of what Churchill calls “non-elevated data” after being off the watchlist to reopen schools. On the 15th day, students can return to campus. Sept. 1 marks the 15th day after the county came off the watchlist Aug. 18.

And while students may be able to return to school, the CUSD Board of Trustees is also looking at options for both in-person and virtual instruction.

Messages left with Veronica Williams, president of the CUSD board, were not returned before deadline.

Churchill said during the Aug. 19 board meeting the board discussed a hybrid model that allows students on campus two days per week.

“We’ll bring back more specifics on Sept. 9,” Churchill said. “We’re working now to determine if there is any way to enhance that.”

As for the county’s order, schools must have a safe reopening plan in place to comply with the state’s criteria for opening schools. CUSD has those plans in place, according to previous comments by Churchill.

Currently, 27 schools — mostly private religious schools — have been approved for in-person learning by the county, according to City News Service. They were among nearly 50 schools that applied for a waiver to the county’s public health guidelines regarding in-person teaching.

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