DEL MAR — The Del Mar Union School District has seen an increase in enrollment since the beginning of the school year on September 8 as families find an answer to get their children back in classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Del Mar Union School District has advocated for students since the start of the pandemic, specifically, for the importance of students attending school in person,” said Superintendent Holly McClurg. “We have never wavered from our commitment to do what is right for our students, and from the outset, we were committed to ‘how’ we would open our schools, rather than ‘when’ we would open our schools.”
That commitment has resulted in an increase of students enrolling into schools in the district despite the local demographics forecasting decreased enrollment this school year.
“It is not typical that we would have that number of new students moving in during this time frame,” said Director of Student Services Jennifer Huh. “So I do attribute some of that to the fact that we are reopened.”
As of February 12, 2685 of the 3926 students currently enrolled in Del Mar are on one of the eight campuses in the district for instruction with the remaining number of students opting in for the district’s “Launch” distance learning alternative due to the ongoing pandemic.
On top of the number of students enrolling, the district has also seen a number of students opt back into in-person learning from their Launch program.
Since the beginning of the school year in September when the district was open for in-person learning, it has seen an increase of 156 students to in-person instruction. This is the equivalent of nine additional classrooms.
Due to the enrollment increase along with the number of existing students choosing to return to class, the district recently added a new first-grade class to accommodate.
“It was really the new families that we were getting that led us to realize that we were going to open another first-grade class with very small numbers of students knowing that we were committed to keeping those cohorts low,” McClurg said. “It’s one of the measures that has definitely been important for us to maintain our health and safety in the schools.”
The cohort sizes have a cap of 19 students for grades K-3 while grades 4-6 are capped at 21, although most cohorts are much smaller.
The district says that while they have had a number of cases of COVID-19 in their schools since reopening in September, they have had zero instances of transmission.
“Part of our original plan was how to respond to a positive case of COVID-19 and how to respond to a staff member or student who may have a symptom of COVID,” Huh said. “In each of those situations, we were able to isolate the individual who tested positive and then respond by initiating a quarantine for anyone who was directly exposed.”
The district says that with the help of their partnership with the county public officials they have been able to determine that there have been zero transmissions of the virus in the school from anyone who has tested positive.
The use of funds from the CARES Act was also used swiftly in Del Mar to install MERV 13 air filters, purchase outdoor tents, install outdoor sinks, and purchase PPE to ensure the safety of students and faculty.
McClurg says that while the size of their district does make decision-making and communication for faculty and staff easier, it is not solely the reason why they have had success in reopening their schools.
“It’s the commitment to how we are going to do it,” McClurg said. “It was complex. To make sure we were having the right conversations at the right times and being willing to make tough decisions that were all about kids.”