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San Diego Unified School District Refines Its Opening Conditions

Posted by Paul Hefley | Aug 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

San Diego Unified School District's school year will begin on August 31, and will be completely online until certain conditions are met. Recently, San Diego Unified asked a team of doctors at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for recommendations of criteria for safely resuming in-person instruction. San Diego Unified is balancing both the state standards and the stricter standards put in place by San Diego County officials.

Given the lack of a coherent and meaningful national response to the pandemic, states, municipalities, and school districts throughout the country have been left alone to manage this situation as best they know how given the information and resources they have at their disposal. The result, however, is a hodgepodge of solutions that differ greatly from school district to school district, county to county, and state to state. While students outside of California have already resumed in-person classes this school year, California has decided to take a more cautious approach. And while distance learning will no doubt continue to strain and test California families is ways we only recently have come to realize, I do think the situation warrants a methodical, science-based approach. That said, however, I do not believe in-person school will happen any time soon. But, let's hope for the best. 

What is San Diego Unified's Reopening Conditions? 

If this pandemic has taught us anything at all, it's taught us that the situation is fluid and ever-changing. Nevertheless, as of now, San Diego Unified will apply the following criteria to make its reopening decision:

State Criteria:

  • 14-day case rate below 100 (Number of cases per 100,00 residents) measured using date of illness onset with a 3-day lag;
  • Testing positivity rate of less than 8% of positive tests as a percent of total tests, measured using specimen collection date in a 7-day period with a 7-day lag;
  • Less than 10% increase in the average number of confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized; and
  • Availability of more than 20% of staffed ICU beds and of 25% of ventilators;

Additional Criteria (primarily San Diego County criteria):

  • Fewer than 7 outbreaks over a 7-day period; 
  • More than 70% of investigations are initiated within 24 hours of notification of a positive case (also over a 7-day period);
  • Contact tracers make a first contact attempt for more than 70% of close contacts of new positive cases within 24 hours of identification;
  • Community outbreaks: Fewer than seven new outbreaks in community settings in a 7-day period;
  • Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like illness reported within a 14-day period;
  • Hospital Capacity: Less than 80% capacity for all hospital beds in San Diego County;
  • PPE Supply: more than 50% of hospitals have at least 22-day supply of PPE; and
  • Homeless Population: Temporary Shelter available for more than 15% of homeless population.

I'm not terribly confident that all of these criteria will be met anytime soon. Nevertheless, I do believe we should err on the side of caution during this time and we should definitely listen to what the experts (e.g., doctors, scientists, virologists) are telling us. If this is the plan they've put together to keep our children safe, we should probably trust the plan. I really don't know what else to do at this point.

What is San Diego Unified's Plan for Distance Learning?

To learn more about San Diego Unified's distance-learning plan, click here.

About the Author

Paul Hefley

Paul is an experienced litigator and trial attorney. He has litigated special education cases in the California Office of Administrative Hearings, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


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