San Jose Unified sticks with distance learning for remainder of 2020

The district cited concerns with the high COVID-19 case count in the city and community as reasons to stick with virtual learning for now.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose Unified announced it will continue with distance learning for all students through December of 2020. The announcement comes after Santa Clara County moved into the 'red' tier on California's new COVID-19 blueprint, allowing K-12 schools to reopen at full capacity once the county has remained in the 'red' tier for two weeks.

"We believe our schools should be a reflection of our community," Superintendent Nancy Albarrán said in a release. "While we believe in-person instruction is the best option for our students, we cannot ignore the data on viral transmission in Santa Clara County and potentially compromise the health and safety of our students, families, and staff by bringing students back at this time."

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The district cited concerns of the high COVID-19 case count in the city and community spread as being the primary source of viral transmission as reasons to stick with virtual learning for now.

"Schools must be able to rely on adequate and rapid testing in order to safely reopen," said Katie Rodriguez, R.N., Manager of Health and Family Support Programs in a release.

Jodi Disario, an English and theater teacher with SJUSD, supports the district's decision.

"I wasn't totally surprised, but I was definitely relieved," said Disario.

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She has been vocal about personal health challenges and her concerns over returning to the classroom too soon and possibly being infected with the virus.

In its Wednesday release, SJUSD also cited a recent survey of parents, students, and employees where the majority supported a consistent teaching plan through the end of the semester.

Lawerence DeSantis Jr. has a student in sixth grade at Muwekma Ohlone Middle School in Japantown and supports the idea of sticking with the current plan in place.

"Both parents work and just getting a handle on the schedule helps prepare us better," said DeSantis, "(It) helps you monitor where your kid is in the process."

DeSantis said he's also been impressed by how much distance learning has improved over the summer.

In March, SJUSD canceled in-person instruction across the district as COVID-19 cases surged in Santa Clara County, believed to be one of the earliest places of viral transmission in California.

"It was really amazing how well they set this up and organized it and facilitated it," said DeSantis.

His son, Tosh, has received a Chromebook from the district which has allowed him to log on for his classes starting at 7:45 each morning.

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Disario said she's also been receiving support from the district to make her virtual lessons as impactful as possible. She's also thankful the district made the call now.

"If we went back with a hybrid where we were teaching kids in the classroom and kids online at the same time, which was the original plan, that would require a whole new style of lesson planning and teaching," she said.

As for what happens next, Disario said she'll have to reevaluate if she feels safe returning to the classroom at the end of the year.

"We're gonna have to look at it in December and see whether or not I feel that I'm okay going back or I'm okay sending my eighth grader back."

A number of charter and private elementary schools in Santa Clara county have applied for waivers allowing them to reopen for in-person instruction with adequate modifications in place.

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