The Coast News Group
Oceanside Unified School District
Middle and high school will return to campus in a hybrid model starting March 29 in Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Middle, high schools to return to campus in Oceanside

OCEANSIDE — As elementary school students geared up to return to campus Monday, last week the Oceanside Unified School District board voted to also allow middle and high school students to return to campus a few weeks later.

During the March 9 regular board meeting, the board of education approved the return of all secondary students in all middle and high school (grades 6 to 12) to return to campus in a hybrid, in-person instructional model starting March 29.

The district’s elementary students already returned to campus on March 15.

According to the district, this decision was made in anticipation of San Diego County entering the less-restrictive red tier, which would allow secondary students to learn in-person under California Department of Public Health guidelines.

“Since campuses closed last spring due to COVID-19, we instantly began preparing and looking forward to the day when all scholars, including our middle and high school students, could be back on campus,” Matthew Jennings, OUSD director of communications, wrote in an email to The Coast News. “While we all look forward to an eventual full return, 5 days a week, this pivot into a hybrid in-person schedule will be the first step in that direction.

We are excited that by the end of this month, all students across Oceanside Unified will have access to on-campus instruction with their teachers, and all of the deep benefits from in-person connection with staff and students. Thank you to all of our staff, students, parents, guardians, and caregivers for your patience, trust, and tremendous effort as we continue into our next phase of reopening.”

In accordance with updated state guidance, both students and staff returning to campus will see new safety protocols in place, including providing six feet separation between students when possible and meeting the minimum required distance of at least four feet, according to a district statement. Teachers will also have six feet of required space.

Students will not be temperature checked upon entering campus but they are advised to check for COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and runny nose and to remain at home if sick. The district also provided a decision tree to follow if any students are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

While the final schedules for students are still being established, students are not returning to in-person instruction five days per week, which comes as a disappointment for some parents in the district and across the county.

According to Todd Maddison, a school activist with the Parent Association of Oceanside, many of the district’s parents are “fatigued” from waiting on the district to return students to campus.

“It’s like, ‘O.K., finally’ for them,” Maddison said. “Some are just ecstatic that their kids are going back… others think the current plan is too little too late and it’s just meant to placate people.”

As The Coast News has previously reported, several residents backed by the Parent Association of North County took legal action against Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials, as well as San Marcos Unified, Carlsbad Unified, San Dieguito Union High, Poway Unified and Oceanside Unified school districts in February. The lawsuit alleges the state has overstepped its authority and that their decision is directly negatively affecting students’ mental health.

The lawsuit is challenging the state’s rules that prohibit middle and high schools from reopening until their county achieves a case rate consistent with the state’s red tier classification, and seeks to have all schools open fully and immediately. In the original complaint, families reported a lack of academic support for students struggling with remote learning.

On March 15, a judge granted the lawsuit’s request for a temporary restraining order against the state, prohibiting them from applying and enforcing the state’s January 2021 Framework as well as anything similar that includes provisions from that framework.

Additionally, it also prohibits the state from enforcing its Safety Review Request Decisions that denied in-person learning return waivers for Carlsbad Unified, Poway Unified and San Dieguito Union High school districts.

Districts must now appear in court on March 30 to demonstrate why they cannot reopen schools for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible as soon as possible.

Maddison and several other parents from the Parent Association are excited about the judge’s temporary restraining order.

Maddison said his own family has been negatively impacted by distance learning. Maddison said his daughter, a junior at El Camino High School, is a good, computer-savvy, self-motivated student, but she has been isolated in her room for the last year without any of her extracurricular activities to attend.

“She was a theatre kid involved with the Star Theatre, and she was singing and dancing everywhere all the time,” Maddison said. “Now, she’s doing nothing.”