By Christine Huard
Since Friday, when local health officials provided San Diego County schools with direction on applying for a waiver to reopen elementary schools for in-person instruction, only one school district has submitted the request to the county health department while 45 private, religious and charter schools have done so.
Currently, the state will only allow county schools to offer students distance learning as long as the high COVID-19 case rate has the region on the monitoring list. There’s a glimmer of hope, however, that schools could return to face-to-face instruction across all grades at some point.
For the first time since July 3, when the county was placed on the state’s County Monitoring List, the county’s case rate per 100,000 residents is 94.2 as of Wednesday.
Local public health officials have said San Diego County would need to have 240 or fewer cases per day for two weeks to meet the case rate metic of 100 per 100,000 residents and be removed from the watchlist. After 14 additional days of “good data,” the county can reopen schools for in-person instruction.
The new school year has already started in some school districts in the county, and most others will get underway by the end of the month.
The waiver is available to public school districts, and independent, private, faith-based and charter schools. Among the eligibility criteria is having adopted a safe reopening plan that is posted on the school website, and have a distance learning program in place.
If granted, it would allow schools to bring students in grades K-6 back to the classroom before the county is removed from the monitoring list and schools are allowed to physically reopen.
The Rancho Santa Fe School District is the only public school district in the county to ask for a waiver so far. The schools that have submitted waiver applications as of Wednesday are:
- Balboa School
- Calvary Christian Academy
- Chabad Hebrew Academy
- Children’s Creative & Performing Arts Academy
- Christ Lutheran School
- Christian Elementary East Campus
- Christian Elementary South Campus
- Christian Elementary West Campus
- Christian Unified School District – Christian South
- Christian Unified School District – Christian West
- Christian Unified Schools
- City Tree Christian School
- Country Montessori School
- Del Mar Pines School
- Diegueno Country School
- Escondido Christian School
- Faithful Ambassadors Bible Baptist Academy
- Gillispie School
- Grace Christian School
- Horizon Prep
- La Jolla Country Day School
- Mandy Callister
- Maranatha Christian Schools
- Maria Montessori School
- Montessori Children’s Elementary
- Mt. Helix Academy
- Ocean View Christian Academy
- Outdoor Connect Christian Academy TK-6
- Saint Joseph Academy
- Saint Patrick School
- Sanderling Waldorf School
- San Diego Jewish Academy
- Santa Fe Christian Schools
- Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School
- Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School
- St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School
- The Bishop’s School
- The Cambridge School
- The Learning Choice Academy – Chula Vista
- The Learning Choice Academy – East County
- The Learning Choice Academy – Scripps
- The Rock Academy
- The Waldorf School of San Diego
- Tri-City Christian School
- Warren-Walker School
When the Health and Human Services Department receives a waiver application, it is reviewed and a determination is made whether to grant or deny the waiver by evaluating local community epidemiological data and in consultation with the state Department of Public Health.
The application must be submitted at 14 days prior to the school’s proposed date of reopening. Schools can expect an answer within five days of submitting the request, according to the county.
Other criteria for qualifying includes an approved safety plan with:
- Physical distancing
- Student cohorts that remain together in the class, as well as during recess and lunch
- How face covering requirements will be met and enforced
- Health screenings
- Contact tracing
- Enhanced hygiene protocols
- A description of cleaning and disinfecting processes
Closed elementary schools in counties on the monitoring list within the prior 14 days may not open for in-person instruction until they have received approval of a waiver by local health officials.
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