Some critics of San Dieguito Union High School District reopening plan point to the cost of litigation to defend such openings. Photo via district

Pressured by a teachers union lawsuit and student activists, the San Dieguito Union High School District won’t reopen schools in January as planned.

York Chang, a lawyer with the California Teachers Association, said the San Dieguito Faculty Association and a husband of a local teacher have reached a settlement with the district in the union’s Superior Court petition.

The board will “refrain from initiating any general education reopening activities for the first four weeks of January in exchange for the petitioners agreeing to vacate a December 30 court hearing for a temporary restraining order,” Chang said Thursday via email.

Agenda for special school board meeting Dec. 28 to ratify settlement with teachers union. (PDF)

A school board meeting is set for 9 a.m. Monday to formally ratify the deal.

“We also agreed that the district’s in-person small cohort operations can and should continue to serve targeted at-risk students identified in the district,” Chang said.

Allison Stratton, who moderates a Facebook group advocating for San Dieguito school reopenings, said: “I know firsthand the level of confusion and fear among parents, students and teachers. I, along with a group of dedicated parents, will continue to work hard to communicate facts and offer solutions so that any student or teacher will have the choice to return to school safely as soon as possible.”

A posted school board agenda says: “It is recommended by the Board President and the Superintendent that the Board ratify the Settlement Agreement between the San Dieguito Union High School District and the San Dieguito Faculty Association.”

Maureen “Mo” Muir, the board president, was part of a 3-2 majority that voted Dec. 15 to reopen schools to all students in January. On Tuesday, the board met for three hours in closed session after nine of 10 speakers urged the schools not reopen fully.

Duncan Brown, president of the 620-member teachers union for the 10-school district, said he’s sure the lawsuit was instrumental in the district’s tentative agreement to rescind the Dec. 15 proclamation.

Chang credits a series of advocacy efforts that encouraged the district to “push pause” on the reopening — once-a-week starting Jan. 4 and five days a week for willing students starting Jan. 27.

“It wasn’t just the lawsuit, but also parent and student organizing, as well as the media bringing the public’s attention to this situation,” he said. “It was also helpful for the state, county and district officials to finally communicate directly, to get on the same page, and to clarify any misunderstandings of the law that led us to this crisis point.”

But the affluent district’s “expanded reopening” is still a possibility — even amid a worsening pandemic.

Chang said his clients, including William Rushing, will have to wait and see what happens in January since the California Department of Public Health may issue more guidance before the end of the year “and the district may choose to press forward again, while in Purple [Tier].”

The CTA and SDFA have not yet withdrawn their lawsuit, he said, but will continue to monitor the situation as it continues to unfold, both from a legal and a public health perspective.

“We write this letter to raise awareness of recent events. Students make up an important constituency in any school…

Posted by Teachers for San Dieguito on Wednesday, December 23, 2020

An open letter signed by eight students contrasted reopening plans by San Dieguito and neighboring San Diego Unified.

“We find it alarming that these two districts are in the same county yet have two different responses to COVID-19,” said the essay posted Wednesday on the Coast News Group website. “One is looking out for the safety of all their constituents and abiding by laws, and the other does not.”

The students said a Google form they posted sought input from students, teachers and parents in SDUHSD.

“After an analysis of the responses, we found that 257 people stated that they prefer distance learning and 58 people prefer a combination of in-person and distance learning.”

The students added: “Only 31 people stated that they would prefer in-person learning. This letter reflects the opinions of SDUHSD constituents that the Board has been blatantly ignoring.”

On Friday, Canyon Crest Academy student Omid Fouladpouri added: “It’s amazing to see what can be achieved with collective effort, and even though it isn’t confirmed yet even this chance is amazing. But we shouldn’t stop. We must continue to organize, especially after seeing our power and influence we can achieve together and continue supporting teachers.”

According to the county Office of Education’s school reopening dashboard, 465 students in the 13,100-student San Dieguito district are attending in-person classes as part of hybrid learning.

Some 12,623 students are engaged in distance learning. Zero are attending class in person exclusively.

Updated at 2:28 p.m. Dec. 25, 2020

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