By Christine Huard
Citing new metrics from the County of San Diego that make it “impossible for any school district to physically reopen schools for in-person instruction before mid-September,” the Poway Unified School District announced its schools will be solely online until after New Year’s Day.
In hope that given more time, the county’s 14-day COVID-19 case rate would drop below the threshold that has put it on the state monitoring watchlist, Poway delayed starting its 2020-21 school year until Sept. 2 in an effort to be able to reopen with both distance learning and on-campus instruction.
“Prior to this week’s announcement by the county, schools could have resumed in-person instruction if the county remained off the state monitoring watchlist for 14 consecutive days,” Superintendent Marian Kim Phelps wrote in a message to families and staff. “Based on this previous requirement, we pushed back the start of the school year to allow case rates to decline and provide us with the best chance of reopening for virtual and in-person instruction.”
This week, the County revealed to local superintendents new, more stringent metrics in order for local schools to reopen for in-person instruction. Therefore, Poway Unified will start the school year fully virtual on September 2. Link to full message here https://t.co/7FGodxjIpp pic.twitter.com/vBBKu2FWYg
— Poway Unified (@PowayUnified) August 6, 2020
Phelps said district superintendents throughout the county were briefed Tuesday on the revised criteria for reopening schools for in-person instruction, which includes San Diego County being off the monitoring list for 28 consecutive days.
“Additionally, if at any point during the aforementioned 28-day period, the county exceeds established thresholds for three days, it will be placed back on the state monitoring watchlist,” Phelps said. “Then, the county would need to remain off the monitoring list for another 28 days to resume in-person instruction.”
This week’s telebriefing with K-12 school administrators offered guidance on county requirements for schools reopening, and detailed the process for school districts to apply for a waiver that would allow in-person instruction for grades TK-6 without the county being removed from the monitoring watchlist.
According to the county public health officials, San Diego County would need to have 240 or fewer cases per day for two weeks – that’s less than 3,370 cases over 14 days – to meet the case rate metic and be removed from the watchlist. After 14 additional days of “good data,” the county can reopen schools for in-person instruction.
A waiver, however, is a possibility for elementary grades that school districts are weighing. The criteria necessary for applying for a waiver was released by the state this week, and gives county public health officials the authority to approve or deny the requests based on community epidemiological data and other factors.
With some 36,000 students in grades TK-12, Poway is the third largest school district in the county. Phelps said the decision to remain entirely online through the end of the year was to maintain stability and continuity of learning.
“While this information is likely to disappoint the majority of our staff and families who indicated a desire to return to on-campus learning as soon as possible, everyone should know that due to our extensive planning thus far PUSD will be ready for a prompt and safe return to in-person instruction if permitted to do so come January,” she said.
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