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Oceanside school board to consider full reopening plans

OCEANSIDE — School board members will consider a timeline and plans for reopening Oceanside’s public school campuses to five days a week at the upcoming April 13 board meeting.

Elementary students in the Oceanside Unified School District returned to campuses for hybrid in-person instruction in mid-March, and middle and high school students returned at the end of the month.

“Because case rates were on a fast decline and we anticipated San Diego County’s transition to the red tier, the board took action during their March 9 meeting to set the secondary return in motion, allowing enough time for the move to the red tier and to allow staff 10 working days’ notice to make the transition,” explained Communications Director Matthew Jennings via email.

The district was prevented from bringing secondary students back to campus while the county remained in the purple tier.

In this hybrid model, students attend classes for a few days a week and supplement the rest with virtual learning. Jennings said the district has been anticipating the eventual return to full in-person instruction, five days a week since the pandemic first began.

“Our current transition into hybrid is an important step forward in that direction, and will allow our students, staff and families time to adjust as we plan for a full return,” Jennings said.

Despite the district’s plans, a group of parents has come forward demanding that reopening campuses to five days of in-person instruction happen immediately.

On March 29, the Oceanside Parent Association sent a letter signed by nearly 90 parents to the school board, superintendent and district staff demanding that the district hold a special, emergency board meeting to reopen the district’s campuses to five days a week of in-person learning.

“In-person learning is a constitutional right in our state, not an option,” the letter states.

The letter reasons that since both Vista and Carlsbad have returned their students to school five days a week for in-person instruction, reopening Oceanside’s schools can be done safely and needs to happen fast.

Jennings said the school board has received and read the letter.

The Parent Association of North County sued the state, Oceanside Unified and other area school districts earlier this year alleging the state has overstepped its authority regarding in-person instruction limitations as defined by the state’s tiered reopening approach.

The lawsuit seeks to have all schools open fully and immediately.

Judge Cynthia Freeland granted a temporary restraining order against the state on March 15, prohibiting the state from applying and enforcing the January 2021 Framework for school reopening.

During an April 8 court hearing, Oceanside Unified is required to submit a declaration stating how its instructional model aligns with the court order requiring school district defendants to reopen schools for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible at the earliest practicable time.

After President Joseph R. Biden signed the American Rescue Plan on March 19, several districts in the region are set to receive an estimated $125 million total to reopen schools safely and help students catch up on lost learning due to the pandemic.

Of that amount, Oceanside is estimated to receive about $30.8 million within 60 days of the bill becoming law.

“On behalf of the entire OUSD team, we are very happy that at this time all students have access to hybrid in-person instruction and the wonderful benefits that students and staff receive when working together in-person,” Jennings said via email. “The pandemic challenges have been evolving and complex, and we appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of our students, staff, parents, guardians and caregivers and thank our entire community for working together to keep our invaluable system of public education going.”