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San Diego Unified Kicks Off School Year

NEWS RELEASE: San Diego Unified Kicks Off School Year with Focus on Safety, Social-Emotional Supports, Academics
Posted on 08/30/2021

SAN DIEGO--The San Diego Unified School District opened the 2021-22 school year with science-based Covid-19 safety measures in place, and with significant new student supports for academic success and social-emotional well-being. 

Teachers and staff greeted thousands of students, from pre-kindergarten through high school, to kick off the school year and the return to five days a week of instruction.. 

“A new school year is full of excitement, hopes, dreams and new experiences. That’s no different this time around,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson. “What has changed is the safety protocol. We’ve invested time, energy and money into providing scientifically backed safeguards to allow everyone to reach their potential as carefully as possible.”

San Diego Unified is investing nearly $3 billion in student success and classrooms this school year, a 14 percent increase per-student from a year ago. It’s the district’s largest investment ever in students and schools. 

More information about this investment and the safety measures already in place are in the new Back to School Guide and Frequently Asked Questions

To reduce the possibility of Covid-19 transmission at schools, the district has adopted a wide range of measures that include: 

  • Upgraded HVAC filtration from MERV 8 to a MERV 13 or HEPA filter, exceeding current requirement
  • Portable air purifiers for areas not served by a MERV or HEPA filter
  • Face masks required indoors and outdoors at all times, except when students are eating or participating in PE, athletics or VAPA, with nearly 1 million masks distributed to schools since reopening in April
  • Handwashing stations and cleaning wipes in multiple location
  • A particulate sensor and CO2 monitor at each site for monitoring the school’s indoor air quality
  • Electrostatic disinfectant sprayers for cleaning school buses
  • Protocols in place for contact tracing, should it be necessary
  • An up-to-date COVID dashboard on our website

“For over a year, we’ve been working closely with a team of scientists and doctors at UC San Diego, as well as county health officials, to design a roadmap for reopening, staying open and keeping students safe,” said district physician Dr. Howard Taras. 

Under part of that safety plan, all San Diego Unified staff will be required to get vaccinated or be prepared to take part in weekly Covid-19 testing. For students, all families are required to make a choice on Covid-19 testing at the start of the new school year. All families must complete the Covid-19 Testing Acknowledgement Form and submit their response online. For unvaccinated school athletes, the district plans to have a testing team at high schools.

“Science has shown that testing, vaccinations, masks and excellent indoor ventilation all work to lessen the prevalence of Covd-19 in a given community,” Dr. Taras said.

Vaccines are free and readily accessible throughout the region and can be found by calling 211 or visiting www.myturn.ca.gov.

Families still not comfortable with returning to in-person learning have the option of enrolling in the new online Virtual Academy. Every student, whether attending in person or online, will receive a laptop computer for the 2021-22 school year.

To help address the academic and social-emotional needs of students who are returning to campuses, the district will accelerate learning by giving students extra time and attention from teachers, counselors, school nurses and psychologists.

“We know schools are the best places for students to learn and grow, which is why we’ve put so many resources behind designing a plan for kids to get back in the classroom as safely as possible to start the new school year,” Board of Education President Richard Barrera said. 

Even the district’s youngest learners are getting a jump start this year. San Diego Unified is expanding TK-4 access to all age-eligible early learners who turn 4 by Sept. 1, as part of TK-4/Universal Transitional Kindergarten district initiative. For the 21-22 school year, TK-4/UTK will be offered at any of our TK-4 elementary site locations.

This year, all San Diego Unified students will have access to free meals on campus, regardless of their school of attendance or family income. All told, 17 nutritious meals per week -- breakfast, lunch, and supper Monday through Friday, plus lunch for the two weekend days -- will be available to students. Families will not have to fill out subsidized meal applications this year.