Back to school in San Dieguito

Pacific Trails Middle School Principal Mary Anne Nuskin helps a student on the first day of school.
(Miquel Jacobs)

After over a year of distance learning, San Dieguito Union High School District celebrated a momentous first day of school on Aug. 17. Students were in classrooms with teachers again, reconnecting with friends and some eighth graders and sophomores were on their campuses for a school day for the very first time.

Grateful board members and district staff were on school campuses last week to happily welcome students back. SDUHSD trustee Katrina Young said that they will do everything in their power to make this year as exciting, inspiring, safe and successful as it can be.

“I can’t tell you how much it warmed my heart to walk on campus Tuesday to see kids interacting finally and excited to be back on campus,” SDUHSD Deputy Superintendent Mark Miller said, growing emotional.

“The students were wearing masks but you could tell they were smiling,” SDUHSD Vice President Melisse Mossy said.

While the return to school is a happy one for most, Miller said he recognizes that there will still be challenges in the transition back to in-person learning.

Friends reconnect on the first day of school at Earl Warren.
(Miquel Jacobs)

Miller said the district’s priority is creating safe, engaging and inclusive classrooms and they have placed special focus this year on student connectedness time, staff training, suicide prevention and threat assessment, and providing a multi-tiered system of support for all students. The district has brought on additional counselors, school psychologists and student support specialists this school year.

“If our kids are struggling, we want to catch them before something happens,” Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch said.

Students who are struggling are encouraged to reach out to their teacher first, counselor or principal.

At its Aug. 19 meeting, the SDUHSD board had a first read of a new mask policy, following all California Department of Public Health guidelines unless an exemption applies for an individual student. Per the policy, violation of mask guidelines will be handled through a restorative approach. The board is expected to approve the policy at its next meeting.

SDUHSD board Trustee Katrina Young, SDA Principal Adam Camacho and Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch on the first day of school.
(Miquel Jacobs)

During public comment, speakers criticized Trustee Michael Allman for attending a recent Let Them Breathe event— Let Them Breathe is a local group suing the state over the mask mandates.

Following the meeting, Allman acknowledged that he was asked to speak at a Let Them Breathe event in Carlsbad on July 10. He said he spoke for about five minutes about the San Dieguito Faculty Association’s attempts to remove non-union endorsed trustees and the ongoing recall effort against him. He said he took no questions and left after his remarks.

At the Aug. 19 board meeting, Allman said he does not support the Let Them Breathe group’s tactic of disrupting school board meetings.

“People feel very strongly that kids should have a choice to wear a mask or not,” Allman said. “I think this is not the right forum to have this debate, we don’t have a choice. This is not our decision to make.”

The board is also considering providing on-site COVID-19 testing for staff and students.

The free, on-site facilities (one in the northern portion of the district and one in the south) would provide a convenient way for the district to comply with the state’s order that staff must be tested weekly if they do not have proof of vaccination. By extending on-site testing to students, the district would also be able to shorten a student’s quarantine time.

“Together, we all have to do everything to protect our students, staff, community and to keep our school open. We all want schools to remain open,” San Dieguito Faculty Association President Duncan Brown said. “Having places to test easily and quickly will help people if they are symptomatic or if they have close contact. We must make it as easy as possible for people to do the right thing.”

Brown also requested that the district increase its office staff to do contact tracing.

The board is expected to take action at a future meeting.


3:24 p.m. Aug. 26, 2021: According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are currently 44 cases districtwide. The numbers include 18 cases at Torrey Pines High School, seven at La Costa Canyon, five at Pacific Trails Middle, four at Canyon Crest Academy, four at San Dieguito Academy, three at Oak Crest and one case each at Carmel Valley Middle, Earl Warren Middle and Diegueno Middle School.