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‘Substantial measures’ in place: La Jolla schools open their doors for a new academic year

Middle school students at La Jolla Country Day School during their Aug. 16 orientation
Middle school students at La Jolla Country Day School during their Aug. 16 orientation; La Jolla Country Day’s first day of school was Aug. 18.
(Courtesy of Rachel Baxter/La Jolla Country Day School)

For the second year, local schools are welcoming students with protocols in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and promote excitement for a new academic year.

All the La Jolla schools surveyed by the La Jolla Light will follow Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Aug. 11 mandate that all school staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or test weekly for the coronavirus, but none of them has current plans to require its eligible students (12 or older) to be vaccinated.

And for all the responding schools, masks will be required indoors of both staff and students, regardless of vaccination status, following the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines for universal masking.

As the San Diego Unified School District prepares for a new school year to begin Monday, Aug. 30 — the first in which campuses will be open to students full time since the COVID-19 pandemic began — a group of parents and scientists is asking for more measures to help prevent the disease’s spread.

La Jolla Country Day School began on Aug. 18, entirely in person with no online option for its preschool through 12th grade students.

Communications content manager Jennifer Fogarty said all students and staff were tested before the first day of school regardless of vaccination status, with ongoing testing for vaccinated staff optional “unless they become symptomatic.”

Students will be tested bi-weekly, Fogarty said, but may opt out if they are vaccinated; temperature screenings will not take place as they did last year.

She said physical distancing, ventilation in all classrooms and the school’s cleaning regimen remain the same from the last school year.

“The LJCDS team has met the challenges posed by the pandemic over the last year and a half. And I am confident we have the team in place to continuously reevaluate and adjust our protocols based on the most current science and data to enhance the protection of our community,” said Head of School Gary Krahn. “LJCDS is committed to always placing the safety of our community first. As educators, we are responsible for heightened caution to protect the vulnerable, even when we don’t have all the facts.”

Stella Maris Academy welcomed its transitional kindergarten through eighth grade students back to school Aug. 18 with similar cleaning and hand sanitization protocols as last year, said Principal Francie Moss.

Moss said Stella Maris will offer testing on campus for students and staff beginning in mid-September. “We are excited about that,” she said.

Masks will be optional when outdoors, Moss said.

Stella Maris is keeping its class numbers low, she said, and will not offer online learning options.

All Hallows Academy also began Aug. 18, with all its transitional kindergarten through eighth grade students in person, Principal Mary Skeen said, and that the school is not offering a virtual option this year.

Skeen said masks will also be worn outside, unless students are able to physically distance.

“Our parents are very supportive of our COVID protocol that is posted on our website. Last year we were very successful in keeping our students in person for the whole year,” Skeen said. “Our community is very excited to start the school year and have another successful year of being together, learning and having fun.”

The Evans School, which serves students through sixth grade, also began Aug. 18 in-person with no online learning option.

“Evans will require masks indoors and conduct routine COVID testing,” said Sarah Brumfield, director of enrollment and communication. She added the school has not required vaccinations, but all of the staff is vaccinated.

“The priority is to keep the Evans community safe and maintain in-person learning with a return to normalcy this school year,” Brumfield said.

The Bishop’s School, for students in grades 6 through 12, starts on Thursday, Aug. 19 and is in a “much better place” in terms of plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, said Head of School Ron Kim. There is no online learning option.

“We continue to be really mindful of what the COVID data looks like,” he said, “and our goals remain the same as they were last year: One is that we’re devoted to making sure that the kids have continuity of learning. Another is that they are safe when they’re on campus, that everyone is safe on campus. And the third is that we’re thinking very carefully about the social-emotional wellbeing of our students.”

He said, “we’re confident that we can have all of our students on campus and be able to do that without compromising any of our three priorities.”

While indoors, all students and adults will wear masks regardless of vaccination status, Kim said.

Bishop’s will also follow the state mandate for staff to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, Kim said, and will not require its eligible students to be vaccinated.

“We know how important it is for students to be on campus,” Kim said. “They love being here, they love being with each other, and that’s a high priority for us.”

The San Diego French American School begins Friday, Aug. 27. All people on camps will be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego French American School will begin on Friday, Aug. 27, and Headmaster Mark Rosenblum said the school is mandating vaccines for all employees.

“Every single on campus person,” he said, including staff and the school’s preschool through eighth grade students will also be tested for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, weekly beginning Wednesday, Aug. 25.

Masks will be optional outdoors, Rosenblum said, with individual desires “respected and supported.”

SDFAS will still offer online learning to “parents uncomfortable sending their child to school long term,” Rosenblum said, with online learning also offered if an entire class or cohort or individual needs to be quarantined at home.

He said he anticipates the number of students enrolled in online learning to be “less than three percent, maybe two.”

Rosenblum said “we are so excited for the new school year to have more normalcy. … Our people are energized and motivated. Our families are happy. We just can’t wait to get back to it.”

San Diego Unified School District, which has five public schools in La Jolla, begins Monday, Aug. 30. The district “has an unwavering commitment to open all schools safely and responsibly for the 2021-2022 academic year,” district spokesperson Mike Murad told the Light on Aug. 16.

“Substantial measures have been put in place to protect the safety of all students, faculty and staff on our campuses this year,” he said, including upgraded air filters, portable air purifiers, a particulate sensor and carbon dioxide monitor at each site, and handwashing stations in multiple locations.

Murad said, “optional weekly testing will be available for students, as testing equipment allows. For unvaccinated school athletes, the district plans to have a testing team at high schools. Because student vaccinations are the safest way to get back to school, we are encouraging everyone to ‘Make a Date to Vaccinate,’” he said, adding vaccines are free and can be found by calling 211 or visiting myturn.ca.gov.

Those uncomfortable returning to in-person learning may enroll in SDUSD’s Virtual Academy for the 2021-2022 school year, Murad said.

Gillispie School and The Children’s School, which start Tuesday, Aug. 31 and Wednesday, Sept. 8, respectively, did not respond to requests for comment. ◆