Solana Beach district continues to phase in more students more days

The Solana Beach School District board heard from an Online Scholar at the Nov. 12 board meeting.

Despite San Diego County moving into the purple tier, the Solana Beach School District is committed to moving forward with its timeline to get more students back in school more days.

Kindergarten students returned to a new four-day schedule on Nov. 9 and they will be joined by first graders on Dec. 7. The timeline remains in place for second graders to return four days on Jan. 11 and third graders on Jan. 25.

“We are not recommending that we slow down, we are not recommending that we halt our next levels of phasing in more students more days a week,” Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said at the board’s Nov. 12 meeting.

District and site committees are at work on a plan for phasing in grades 4-6 four days a week, targeting a February 2021 return. There is also a unique opportunity to pilot an earlier return at Solana Pacific School, which only has grades 4-6 on its campus. A status update on the phasing in of 4-6 grades will be provided at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting.

“I’m very concerned about our fourth through sixth graders and I really hope that we get there before February 2021,” SBSD Vice President Debra Schade said. “Keeping them in two days a week on a hybrid learning model all the way through February, I’m really concerned about learning loss.”

Schade said she has suggested the district implement an a.m./p.m. model so that students are on campus with their teacher more days a week as an interim measure prior to fully coming back four days. In the a.m./ p.m. model, utilized by the Poway Unified and Cardiff School Districts, one cohort comes in the morning and another group in the afternoon for in-person instruction four to five days a week. All potential ideas and options to phase-in grades 4-6, including the a.m./p.m. model, are being evaluated by committees.

Currently, all SBSD campuses are open with first through sixth graders in a hybrid learning model, attending in-person school two days a week. A total of 919 students remain in the district’s separate distance learning program, Online Scholars.

As of press time, there were two active COVID-19 cases at Carmel Creek School but Brentlinger said there have been no school site outbreaks or transmissions. Students continue to participate in the district’s proactive asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program.

Board members Gaylin Allbaugh and Vicki King expressed concerns about the upcoming holidays and urged the district to send out protocol reminders as there is an increased potential for family traveling or gatherings for Thanksgiving. Last week Governor Gavin Newsom issued a travel advisory urging residents not to travel out of state for Thanksgiving and recommending those who do to self-quarantine for 14 days. Under California Department of Health guidelines, in-person events or parties with more than three households are not permitted, even if outdoors. Per San Diego County Department of Public Health: the smaller the number of people, the safer.

“What happens outside school is just as important as what we do inside our schools,” King said. “Our teachers, our staff, our administration and this board have committed to keeping our staff and students safely in school. But what comes into our schools from the community has a lot to do with choices that we make outside of our school. They’re hard choices. I have to make them too…but we have a lot of choices we can make that will help our schools stay open.”