San Dieguito to reopen four days a week starting April 12

Students in a classroom at Oak Crest Middle School on the return to school first day on March 16.
Students in a classroom at Oak Crest Middle School on the return to school first day on March 16.

The San Dieguito Union High School District board voted 3-1 in favor of bringing students back four days a week starting after spring break on April 12. The board’s resolution approved at a March 29 special meeting also included students returning five days a week at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, with the base instruction model being in-person learning. SDUHSD Trustee Katrina Young was the sole vote in opposition.

“Our kids need to be in the classroom,” said SDUHSD President Mo Muir. “We have the best teachers in the world and the best learning is in the classroom. I think we’re doing our kids a disservice if we don’t have them back in the classroom.”

Board members acknowledged that they have listened to all input in making what they said was a difficult decision.

At a special meeting the week before on March 24, Young had voted in support of SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley bringing forward the expanded reopening resolution.

“There are some students who desperately need to be in school and we’re listening to those students and that’s why we’re probably moving our reopening faster than other parents would want,” Young said, adding that they are trying to find a compromise between those students that need to stay home and those who want and need to be in-person.

Young said she fully supports in-person learning but she had hoped for a more measured return to four days a week in-person school. She said her vote was meant to draw a line in the sand to say she would not go any further with reopening this year.

After spring break, there are 44 days left of school. The resolution states that the district will continue with the four-day-a-week model until June 11.

Carrie Su, the student board representative from Canyon Crest Academy, and Cassie Miller, from San Dieguito High School Academy, voted against the reopening resolution. Sarah Williams, from La Costa Canyon, and Devon Hollingsworth, from Sunset High School, supported it.

“I know it’s not a perfect decision for every family,” SDUHSD Vice President Melisse Mossy said. “But we’re doing the very best that we can and we want to give our best to every single student.”

Starting on March 16, the district allowed students who wished to return to in-person learning come back one day a week, expanding reopening to two days a week on March 22. Students attend school on their assigned days in cohorts, grouped by last names. Some teachers have accommodations that allow them to teach from home and those classrooms have a substitute teacher in the physical classroom for supervision.

Superintendent Haley has visited classrooms at every campus and said teachers are adjusting to teaching students both at home and in the classroom—every teacher is doing things in different ways. On-campus learners are not required to come to campus on their designated day and have the option to learn from home. Attendance in-person is mixed: in some classrooms there are only two kids in-person and the majority online. Other classrooms have larger numbers of students opting to attend in-person.

“We want to ensure that students at home get the successful education they’re entitled to and the students in the classroom get the successful education that they want and need, to be in a room and interactive with teachers,” Haley said.

During public comment, some parents were encouraged by the move to bring students back more days, supporting the district reopening “to the fullest extent possible”, asking for a full five-day-a-week reopening and getting rid of Wellness Wednesday, the midweek asynchronous learning day. Other parents cautioned that it was “reckless” to reopen further at this time and stressed the importance of a stable distance learning model for those who are not yet comfortable returning to school.

Teacher Brynn Faris and other parents said the the district needs to first assess the two-day-a-week model before further reopening: “Just because you can open four days a week doesn’t mean you should.”

“From the first day of joining this board I’ve fought to give our students the opportunity to be on campus full time, I’m not going to abandon that goal. I know it’s the right thing to do,” Trustee Michael Allman said at the March 24 meeting. “Fundamentally it’s about choice, to provide a choice for students that want to be in school. Anyone who disagrees, they can keep their children at home, that’s their choice.”