Back to school: San Dieguito expands to four days a week in-person

Students work inside the Torrey Pines High School's media center.
(Karen Billing)

San Dieguito Union High School students were able to return to school in-person four days a week on April 12.

After spending the majority of the school year in distance learning, the district started with just one day back on March 16 and expanded to two days the following week. After spring break, students were able to opt to return to school four days a week in-person or remain in distance learning.

With the expanded reopening, students have gradually been returning to school—more students have returned in the northern communities of the district than the southern part. According to the latest numbers submitted to the San Diego County Office of Education on April 12 (prior to the four-day-a-week reopening), the most high school students have come back at San Dieguito Academy High School where 44% of the school’s 2,000 students have returned. At La Costa Canyon, 40% have returned and at Canyon Crest Academy, 21% of the school’s 2,466 students are learning in-person.

The district’s middle school students have returned more than high school students: The district’s highest in-person attendance is at Earl Warren with 72% opting to come back, followed by 68% at Oak Crest, 62% at Diegueno, 53% at Pacific Trails and 47% in-person at Carmel Valley Middle School.

“I do think the momentum will build,” Superintendent Robert Haley said of the few remaining weeks of the school year. The latest attendance numbers reflecting the weeks after spring break will be posted on the county website on April 27.

At Torrey Pines High School, where 27% of the 2,500 students have opted to return for in-person learning, no classroom looks the same. Some classrooms have few in-person students, others have more as the teachers teach to the students in the room and those learning at home.

“There’s a variety of different set-ups as you go from school to school,” Haley said. “Teachers have quite a bit of flexibility in how they set up their rooms.”

Student desks meet the distancing requirements and outdoor spaces are set up for teachers to take students outside for learning.

Haley said the district has been very aggressive about teachers’ access to vaccinations and a priority was placed on employees that had accommodations to teach from home. Haley said the number of teachers who have requested accommodations to teach from home has dwindled—a few classrooms still have a proctor for supervision as the instructor teaches students from home.

Last week the campus was a buzz of activity as students arrived to campus in the morning, masked-up and getting their daily health screening checked by staff before greeting friends and starting their regular schedule of classes.

In another step toward a return to normalcy, Haley expects that the schools will be able to hold in-person graduations and promotions this spring, with limited capacity. Each school site is planning to celebrate the class of 2021 in a special way and, in some cases, the class of 2020 will have an opportunity to be honored in-person as well.

The district has resolved to bring students back for a five days a week schedule for the 2021-22 school year.