PUSD approves reopening plan, students call for more preventative measures

YJ Si, Editor-in-Chief

Poway Unified School District (PUSD) approved its 2020-2021 school reopening plan, June 25, which includes two options for families: returning to campus or staying home. PUSD will send commitment surveys to all families on July 24 to be due July 29, except to those attending Valley Elementary who operate under a different school calendar.

If students choose the return to campus, numerous protocol measures will be put in place. Temperature checks, separate lunches, and structured entrance will likely become a new normal.

After PUSD released its plans, however, Lili Olah (12) felt that there weren’t enough preventative measures outlined.

With the recent spikes in cases in San Diego, the demands in her petition include requiring (instead of only encouraging) face masks for all students, reducing class sizes, and requiring physical distancing. As of 10 a.m. July 20, the petition has over 3,800 signatures.

Olah said she is concerned with the overall safety of the students. With the rate at which the COVID-19 situation is changing, she said, families shouldn’t be pressured to make a decision about a situation that could very well change by the time school starts..

“If plans have not yet been completely solidified and cannot be publicized yet, we [as students] ask that the decision date be pushed back until we have enough detailed information on this year’s plans,” Olah said. “How can we make a conscious decision if we don’t know what we’re signing up for?”

PUSD sent an email to families July 2 to address the community response to their reopening plan. The usage of masks is currently not required by students due to guidelines set by the California Department of Public Health as prolonged mask-wearing is not recommended for young children. 

According to PUSD Board of Education member Darshana Patel, the reopening plan is open to change. As the COVID-19 infection numbers continue to rise, she said there may be changes in mask wearing and social distancing requirements. Along with this, Superintendent Dr. Marian Kim-Phelps stated in the update to families that the district is working to procure enough free masks for all students and staff on campus.

As more information surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is released, Olah said she hopes that students consider their safety before choosing to return to campus. 

“For many, being physically present in a classroom is necessary for a positive, effective learning experience, and many of us feel pressured to choose in-person learning,” she said. “No one should be forced to learn in an unsafe environment.”

With the announcement made July 13 by Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District outlining their plans to continue online learning, PUSD is currently making plans to refine the details of site-specific reopening plans. According to an email sent to families by Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps, the first day of school is subject to a possible delay until Sept. 2. However, Kim-Phelps said that if cases continue to rise in San Diego, the district may be forced to open initially with online learning. 

“This is the most difficult challenge we’ve ever had to undertake as educators,” Phelps said. [Still], I am confident that PUSD will continue to serve as a model for other districts in providing an excellent, world-class educational experience to our students.”

*Please note that this information is updated as of July 20. Additional information will be released by the district next week and the first day of school is still set at August 19.