San Dieguito school board approves expanded reopening

New trustee Michael Allman addresses the board on Dec. 15.
(Karen Billing)

The San Dieguito Union High School District board voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution that expands school reopening at the beginning of the third quarter in January, a resolution drafted by new board trustee Michael Allman. The vote came at close to 11 p.m. on Dec. 15, after a nearly six-hour-long meeting with new President Mo Muir, Vice President Melisse Mossy and Allman voting in favor.

The resolution states: “Unless specifically ordered otherwise by an applicable public health order issued directly to the district by the county or state, the Governing Board determines and directs that all district schools should be open for on-campus instruction for all students who desire to participate on a full-time basis beginning on the first day of the third quarter of the school year, January 27, 2021.”

Allman said it gives the district the objective for all students to be back on campus five days a week in the third quarter.

“We’re going to do it carefully and methodically and professionally, we’re not just going to throw kids back on campus, that’s not the idea at all,” Mossy said in her support of the resolution. “Everyone needs to understand it isn’t normal, until COVID goes away nothing is going to be normal but we’re going to do our best. We’re going to meet the needs of the kids that need to stay home and the kids that need to be on campus.”

Two student representatives who remained on the call, Cassie Miller from San Dieguito High School Academy and Carrie Su from Canyon Crest Academy, voted in opposition of the expanded reopening resolution.

The district has been preparing to open for in-person instruction one day a week starting on Jan. 4, following winter break. Per the district’s plan, groups of students will attend all of their classes in person on campus on their assigned day and will be online at home for the other four days. Students will also have the option of remaining in distance learning.

As the vote for the resolution came down, board members Katrina Young and Kristin Gibson as well as the administrative staff weren’t exactly sure what was being approved and expressed concerns that Jan. 27 was an unrealistic goal that was “setting schools up to fail”. SDUHSD Assistant Superintendent Bryan Marcus said, “We can’t sustain a five day a week model.”

Last week the San Dieguito Faculty Association sent a letter to the San Diego County Office of Education demanding the district cease and desist from further reopening. The district has shared concerns about staff attrition as well as a shortage of substitute teachers—last month it was estimated that 10% of staff was planning to take a leave of absence when schools reopened on Jan. 4 due to safety concerns.

The expanded reopening resolution was one of three agenda items brought to the agenda by Allman, who was sworn in that night. As originally written, Allman had designated himself as the board’s representative to facilitate the planning and implementation of the resolution. Mossy revised the language to include the entire board, not just Allman.

As much of the agenda remained unfinished at 11 p.m., the board voted to continue the rest of the meeting to Thursday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m.