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73% of San Diego Unified families responding to survey want schools to resume in-person instruction

Protesters hold signs at San Diego Unified headquarters in October calling for schools to reopen.
Protesters rally outside San Diego Unified School District headquarters in October demanding that schools reopen for in-person learning.
(File)

About 64% of the district’s families responded to the survey. About 27% said they will keep their children in distance learning full time for the rest of the school year.

About 73 percent of San Diego Unified School District families who responded to a recent district survey said they want schools to return to in-person instruction.

The actual percentage of families who want to return to campuses is likely lower, school officials say, because thousands of families did not respond to the survey. Families who don’t respond will, by default, remain in distance learning, said San Diego Unified board President Richard Barrera.

The responses so far suggest that most San Diego Unified schools probably will be able to offer students four days a week of in-person learning when the district reopens campuses the week of April 12, Barrera said.

Some schools that have higher percentages of students returning may only be able to offer two days a week of in-person instruction due to social distancing constraints. San Diego Unified is requiring five feet of space between student chairs in classrooms, which is more than the state’s three-foot requirement.

District officials likely won’t know until next week which schools will offer two days a week of onsite instruction and which will offer four days a week, Barrera said, but in-person attendance will be higher at schools in communities that have had low rates of coronavirus infections.

“We’re likely to have, at least at the beginning, more students return in the areas of the district that have been less impacted by the virus and fewer students return in the areas that have been more impacted by the virus,” Barrera said.

About 27 percent of families who responded to the survey said they will keep their children in distance learning full time for the rest of the school year.

The actual percentage of families who want to stay in distance learning is likely higher, Barrera said, because more than a third of families did not respond to the survey, and some may not have because they want their children to stay home. Families who don’t respond will, by default, remain in distance learning, Barrera said.

The survey had a 64 percent response rate, and the district currently enrolls about 97,000 students. School officials are trying to track down responses from families who didn’t fill out the survey.

Preferences for returning to school after more than a year of closures were relatively consistent across some student groups.

The desire to return to campuses was lower among Asian, Black and homeless students. Asian students had the lowest preference rate, with 57 percent wanting to return, while about 69 percent of Black students and homeless students want to return, according to the survey results.

Which students want to attend school in person survey

White families want their children to return the most, according to the survey, with 83 percent wanting to go back to school.

People of color, particularly Black and Latino parents, have been less likely to want to return to school than White families, largely because their communities have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, said Tyrone Howard, a UCLA education professor. They have been more likely to get COVID-19 and die from it, and they have been vaccinated against COVID at disproportionately lower rates.

About 44 percent of San Diego Unified students are Hispanic or Latino, while about 24 percent are White, 10 percent are Asian and 7 percent are African American.

Some families have said returning to school is not worth the risk of their kids potentially bringing the virus home to infect vulnerable family members.

“A lot of parents are ready to have their kids back in school because they’re just over everything they’ve been through,” Howard said. “But I think there also is a percentage of parents ... who are skeptical about whether or not it is safe.” ◆