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Oceanside Unified protest
Oceanside residents protest outside of a school board meeting to determine when children can safely to return to in-person instruction. Photo by Dan Brendel
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Oceanside elementary students return to campuses in March

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside elementary students can return to district campuses in March.

The Oceanside Unified School District board unanimously voted on Feb. 9 to have all preschool through fifth-grade students receiving special education services return to in-person instruction the week of March 8.

General education students in the same grades return the week of March 15. Students will return for split days rather than full school days for the time being.

The board made the decision based on the decline of COVID-19 case rates in the county along with its hiring of new staff that will enable “a safe and efficient return to campus,” according to a board letter addressed to parents published on Feb. 10.

For parents like Amanda Maslowski, the decision to reopen could have come a lot sooner.

Maslowski is an Oceanside resident and mother of two little boys, one in kindergarten and the other a special needs preschool student at Del Rio Elementary.

Virtual classes don’t work at all for her younger son, Gavin, who has autism and is unable to absorb the lessons from a computer screen.

Special needs students receive IEPs (Individualized Education Program), which documents each student’s individual learning needs and sets goals for them. Maslowski wrote to Gavin’s teacher and principal, describing her concerns with how her son would be able to meet his IEP goals if he could not absorb lessons virtually.

Maslowski was able to finally get that one-on-time for Gavin and each of his teachers for academics, physical education, speech therapy and more, but she knew that wasn’t the reality for everyone else.

Her older son, Wyatt, has also been struggling with virtual classes over the last year.

“He’s very smart, but he’s struggling,” she said.  “Wyatt is more capable, but he still can’t read, and I have to be on top of him to do assignments, and the amount of work he receives as a kindergartner seems like a lot.”

Maslowski was excited to see both of her sons on the same playground together this year, but so far that hasn’t happened.

She has been vocal about her desire to have the schools reopen and has spoken at board meetings. She also attended a parent protest demanding the schools reopen prior to Tuesday evening’s meeting.

The school district promised to make “every possible effort” to keep 6 feet between students and will meet the minimum required distance of 4 feet. Teachers must be kept 6 feet apart.

The schools will no longer check students’ temperatures upon arrival but expect parents to conduct self-screenings at home for COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and runny nose. The district stresses that parents keep their children home if they are sick.

The school district is currently prohibited from opening middle and high school campuses while San Diego County remains in the state’s most restrictive purple tier. However, some low-contact California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sports like cross country and golf are allowed to launch condensed competition seasons. More sports are expected to open as the county moves into the red, orange and yellow tiers.

Board Vice President Eric Joyce pleaded for fellow board members to consider allowing special education students in middle and high school to be allowed to return to campus as well.

“There are students who sorely lack access to their education in a virtual environment,” Joyce said.

Joyce explained that the district is currently able to bring those students back to campuses in small groups for short periods of time and wants the board to consider moving forward with a plan to do so.