SAN DIEGO (AP) — California’s second-largest school district has announced stricter reopening guidelines than the state, and officials say “it will be a matter of months — not weeks, not days” before students can return to campus.
San Diego Unified School District made the decision Monday after health experts from the University of California, San Diego wrote in a report this week that the district should adopt stricter measures than those being enforced by the state, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“We’ve seen the mistakes that have been made in other places … because they made an arbitrary decision that wasn’t really based on science,” School Board President John Lee Evans said in a virtual news conference.
California rules require counties to maintain a coronavirus case rate of 100 or fewer cases per 100,000 people for two weeks before allowing public or private schools to reopen, though individual schools can apply for a waiver. As of Tuesday, San Diego County had a case rate of 105 and the county projects it would be at least another month before that requirement is met.
San Diego Unified has added another criteria to meet — schools won’t reopen until there are fewer than seven community outbreaks over a weeklong period. Currently, there are 24.
San Diego Unified School Board Vice President Richard Barrera said the district is “extremely aware and extremely concerned” about students not being in school for such a long time. But he said the district’s standards were nowhere near what other countries have instituted before reopening schools.
Officials said the district is looking into providing in-person services to vulnerable students, including homeless children.
When schools do reopen, the district will require masks for all students and teachers and will ensure that classrooms without natural ventilation or a so-called MERV 13 filter have portable air cleaners, San Diego Unified’s in-house physician Dr. Howard Taras said.
An expert panel recommended that the district install better air filters than many classrooms currently have.
The board president said the district will do the best it can with the available funding, “but we’re also realistic. If there’s not enough money to provide for all of these costs, then we’re gonna be limited with what we can do,” said Evans, the board president.