RSF School District remains committed to reopening school

A new outdoor courtyard was created at the R. Roger Rowe campus after they removed the lockers.

On the day when San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified, the two largest school districts in the state, announced they would be returning to school with only online learning this fall, Rancho Santa Fe School District Superintendent Donna Tripi held a virtual chat with parents stating that their plans have not changed regarding reopening school on Aug. 24.

“We are very committed to going back to in-person school, on time with as much as a normal routine as possible,” said Tripi to about 136 participants on the July 13 Zoom call. “We really think the best option for all of our kids is to come back to in-person school…we think that we are in the best possible position of any district around to be able to do this safely.”

The district’s main objective is safety of students and staff and they are following every state and county guideline regarding distancing, facial coverings, screening and cleaning.

The district went through every single classroom on campus and removed excess furniture and laid out the classrooms with 6 feet of distancing.

“The rooms look great, very clean and welcoming still,” Tripi said noting class sizes will remain small and they are expecting an enrollment of about 550 students.

The school also recently took out the under-utilized lockers, which created a new patio that provides more outdoor space for students to be in during lunch and recess or even for teachers to use for outdoor instruction.

To date, there have been no changes to the state and county’s school reopening guidance, however, Tripi said they have been told that facial coverings may be required versus encouraged for students. As it stands now, students will be required to wear facial coverings when physical distancing can’t be achieved, such as during classroom transitions and during arrival and dismissal times.

Some parents complimented the district for the work they have done to prepare and are excited, confident and ready to return to school. Others still had questions and concerns and were reluctantly considering distance learning particularly given San Diego Unified’s reasons for not going back which include increasing infection rates and the lack of on-demand testing available.

“Do you think that it’s going to be safe enough?” asked one parent.

As another parent noted, some people in the community do not wear masks and don’t think masks are necessary, which may or may not trickle down to their children. She asked whether there would be a policy that if the child does not wear a mask, they would not be allowed in school.

Tripi said as it stands now the school can require students to wear masks and they would give them out to students who don’t come to school with them. She said they wouldn’t “punish” children for not having a mask but they are looking to address facial coverings in parent permissions and protocols prior to the school year.

“We are balancing how important it is for children to be in school for their academic program and social and emotional wellbeing,” Tripi said. “We really want them to get back into a normal routine and we feel like we can do it safely, complying with every piece that’s out there now.”

One parent said she would like to see the district “lean toward the side of caution” when it came to wearing masks inside the classroom as children could be asymptomatic carriers who spread the virus.

“I think it’s great that they are wearing masks during transition, arrival and departure but I think that we do need to consider having them wearing masks in the classrooms,” the parent said. “We’re looking out for the safety not only of our children but of the community.”

Tripi acknowledged she does not have all of the answers— they are being updated weekly on the state and county guidance and as more information is learned about COVID-19.

“We’ll follow every (safety guidance) and if there’s a way to strengthen it, we’ll do it,” Tripi said.

For those who do not feel comfortable returning children to school, a more structured distance learning program will be offered. A survey was sent out to parents on June 28 on whether they would prefer to opt into distance learning or return to school and Tripi said they would check back in with parents on their preference in August.