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COVID-19 increase forces continued distance learning for local public schools


San Diego County’s recent surge in COVID-19 infections has continued to stall the efforts of Escondido’s public schools to return to in-school, in-person instruction. 

The board of the Escondido Union School District (EUSD) met January 7 in what it termed an “emergency” meeting and approved postponement, until February 2, its return to in-person teaching in its hybrid model. It set that date to explore a “tentative restart.”

The decision overturned the EUSD board’s decision in December to reopen to in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 12. But at the emergency meeting, the board did approve an in-class return on that date, as previously planned, for Phase One students – including Special Education Moderate to Severe classes and the state preschool program. This will be based on the availability of teaching and support staff, the board said. 

The decision to continue primarily with distance learning was based, the board said, on a review of “local conditions” related to the number of infections. It said it will further consider a timeline for reopening at a January 21 meeting.

In a similar decision, Classical Academies charter schools (Escondido) reversed its decision to return to in-class instruction for “large groups of students” at all of its campuses on January 19 (Times-Advocate, January 7). 

In announcing the proposed reopening, Classical had recommended that teachers should contact the system’s Human Resources office to discuss their specific circumstances, such as being a caregiver or being fearful for their health if they returned to in-class instruction

Cameron Curry, CEO of Classical Academies, said that reversal of the pivot to in-person instruction was a matter of “moving the goal posts,” with review of the decision in about two weeks.

Curry noted that Classical Academies has campuses in 32 communities and its decision was based on discussions with county officials concerning the increased number of infections. 

And Michelle Stanley, chief communications officer for Classical Academies, said the reversal was based on the increased rates of infection (and hospitals’ ICU capacity), with the continuance of distance learning a decision made “in the best interests of the community.”

Curry said that a “handful” of teachers had objected to the proposed return to in-class instruction but that this did not represent all of them.

He said, “Some [teachers] feel it’s no big deal and some are afraid to leave their homes. There’s a lot of anxiety when you’re dealing with the unknown.” 

For the Escondido high school district, the virtual learning approach will also be the primary method of instruction. The district began the new semester of classes primarily with distance learning on January 6, saying it will continue this way “at least through the first grading period.” 

It said that on campus Learning Pods will be available for students with disabilities, English Language Development students, and any students needing extra support. 

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