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San Marcos Unified to resume in-person learning for elementary students

SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) held a special governing board meeting on Monday, Jan. 11, and decided to resume in-person learning for some students after the district temporarily suspended in-person classes at the end of last month.

After a presentation and discussion, the board opted to resume in-person learning beginning Jan. 25 for special education and early elementary students (PK, TK, Kindergarten and first grade) whose families chose a hybrid learning option.

Students in second through fifth grade, as well as secondary special education students, will resume in-person learning the following week, on Feb. 2.

The district will also resume and expand small cohorts of middle school and high school students beginning Jan. 25, and in-person athletics will also return on Jan. 25.

On Dec. 29, the district notified parents that they would be pausing in-person learning for at least two weeks citing concerns over the recent countywide surge in COVID-19 cases.

The district’s elementary students who chose a hybrid learning option have been attending in-person classes since October, while middle and high school students were set to begin in-person learning in January.

SMUSD, which has more than 21,000 students in grades K-12, since August has had 86 students and 69 employees test positive for COVID-19.

At Monday’s meeting, the board heard roughly 20 minutes of public comment from district parents and students mostly advocating for a return to in-person learning.

Dr. Tiffany Campbell, SMUSD’s assistant superintendent of instructional services, highlighted the difficult nature of remote learning, especially for the district’s secondary students who have not been on campus for almost a full year.

“There is a real downside to remote instruction. … Remote instruction is not helping the social, emotional health and well-being of our students, we understand that,” Campbell said. “Our secondary students have not been on campus since March. We do have reduced student engagement and attendance for some students. … This, however, is across the board and across the state.”

Campbell added that in-person learning must be a priority for special education students and elementary students, who would be most negatively impacted by remote instruction.

No votes were taken based on the special meeting status, however the board gave direction to Interim Superintendent Kevin Holt and Campbell to move forward with these plans.