The San Diego Unified School District, the largest school district in San Diego County, is welcoming students back to the classroom Monday with new COVID-19 policies in place.
It’s a day Kristy Drake, a fifth-grade Spanish immersion teacher, has been waiting for.
“Well, I really love shiny backpacks. It’s kinda the most fun part. I just love the excitement and the noise and the energy that the kids bring at the beginning of the school year,” Drake said.
On Thursday, the district announced new safety measures. The outdoor masking policy was reintroduced for the school year. The district said instructing students and staffers need to wear masks at all times while outside on campus unless they are eating.
The school board’s president said the district expects about 90% of students back in the classroom, compared with pre-pandemic numbers, reports NBC 7’s Lauren Coronado.
Authorities also modified the guideline for “certain situations,” specifically for PE, athletics, and performing arts programs.
Drake says the same policy was in place when the students came back last year, and she doesn’t expect it to be a problem.
“So, I never had an issue with kids wearing masks. They were perfectly happy to wear masks if it meant they could come to school and be with their friends,” Drake said.
The national advocacy group Let Them Breathe, a self-described group of parents “who are concerned about the detrimental effects of masks on their children’s mental, physical, emotional, and social health,” called the district’s new policy an “unscientific decision” that ignores what they say is a “statistically non-existent risk of outdoor transmission.”
SDUSD Board President, Richard Barrera, said he hopes the new practices keep COVID-19 cases low and attendance high.
“All of these layers of strategies, again; ventilation of classrooms, masking, testing, cleaning, vaccination for our students 12 years old and older. These are the strategies that have proved effective to stop the virus from spreading on our campuses,” Barrera said during a Zoom interview with NBC 7 on Friday.
A new testing program was also adopted Thursday night. Barrera said it’s designed to test students who may have been exposed to the virus or are showing symptoms. In addition, it will help lower the risk of outbreaks.
For parents who do not feel comfortable bringing their students back to the classroom, SDUSD is providing an online option for them.
NBC 7’s Rory Devine talked to SDSUD families who ar thinking twice about sending their kids back to campus.
Barrera said the district expects about 90% of students back in the classroom when compared to pre-pandemic registration numbers.
SDUSD includes 113 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 27 high schools, 25 charter schools, 10 alternative schools, and 4 other schools in San Diego. In all, the largest school district in San Diego County serves 121,000 students.