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San Diego Unified School District delays reopening campuses due to coronavirus surge

La Jolla High School in the San Diego Unified School District
La Jolla High School and other schools in the San Diego Unified School District will not reopen to all students for in-person instruction in January, as originally planned.
(File)

The district plans to release a new reopening timeline Jan. 13.

The San Diego Unified School District no longer plans to reopen to all students for in-person instruction in January, citing the worsening coronavirus crisis.

The state’s second-largest school district had announced in October that it planned to open campuses to all elementary students Jan. 4 and all middle and high school students Jan. 25 as part of Phase 2 of its reopening plan. The district had intended to provide hybrid instruction, with students on campus part time and at home part time.

But the district announced to staff and families the night of Dec. 1 that it will not open on those dates. It will instead reassess and release a new reopening timeline Jan. 13.

“The decision to remain online longer than we had hoped will be disappointing to the many students, teachers and others who are eager to be back in the classroom. However, the current spread of the coronavirus in our community makes it unsafe to move forward with Phase 2 of our reopening at this time,” the district said in a message.

The move was not unexpected. The district said in October that reopening would be contingent on San Diego County getting and staying out of the purple tier, the most restrictive level of the state’s coronavirus reopening framework — which the county is failing to do.

San Diego Unified currently is in Phase 1 of its reopening, providing limited in-person support sessions to elementary school students who are struggling academically and those with disabilities who have high needs.

About 2,000 elementary students — about 2 percent of the district’s enrollment — have participated in Phase 1. A fraction of eligible students is participating partly because Phase 1 is voluntary for teachers. Families also may opt out of Phase 1.

The district said it will continue providing Phase 1 in-person support despite the coronavirus surge.

On Monday, Dec. 7, it plans to expand Phase 1 to include eligible middle and high school students, preschoolers, infants and toddlers.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is surging to its highest levels since the pandemic began. All but six of California’s 58 counties are in the purple tier because they have widespread levels of the illness.

On Dec. 1, San Diego County reported 22 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 1,019 since the pandemic began.

The county’s positive coronavirus test rate also has been continually rising and now is at 6.3 percent, more than double what it had been for months since the last coronavirus surge in July.

And county COVID-19 hospitalizations more than doubled during November, and hospitalizations are expected to continue to rise. State officials this week projected that by Christmas Eve, hospitals around the state will be over capacity.

San Diego Unified and county officials have said they anticipate the state will impose drastic measures in coming days in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

It’s unclear what those measures will be and whether the state will restrict in-person school instruction. Most San Diego County school districts are open for in-person instruction at least partially. ◆