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Chula Vista Elementary School District superintendent talks reopening decisions

'The Learning Curve: Behind the Science' is a series looking at the scientific decision-making process behind reopening schools in San Diego County.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — As the new school year gets underway online for many San Diego County school districts, News 8 wanted to take a look at the decisions being made when it comes to reopening schools. All this week, News 8 compiled interviews with a variety of experts for a discussion about kids and COVID-19, all through the lens of science.

News 8's Shannon Handy spoke with Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo about the district's reopening plans and why being off the state's watch list doesn't change things, at least for now.

San Diego County just came off the state’s watch list. Does that change anything for your district?

“What I do is not only look at the county, but look at [it] within my own community as well and unfortunately, in my community, the rates are still high," said Escobedo. "They're actually still increasing, so even though we're off the watch list, when I look at my community areas, we're still at a very high rate.”

So at this point, what is the plan for your district whether or not we're on or off the watch list?

“Our plan is to remain on distance learning and then after Labor Day, begin bringing children back under childcare so our students whose parents are essential workers, our homeless, our foster kids and some of our English learners as well as some of our special needs kids students - we want to bring them back," said Escobedo. "The YMCA will be supervising them in a day camp type of experience. At the same time, a portion of the day will be dedicated for distance learning.”

Do you foresee at any point during the school year parents will have the option to send their kids back to school? Maybe a hybrid model?

“Absolutely," said Escobedo. "That is our intention, that once those levels begin to mitigate or decrease significantly that we'll be able to do a hybrid model and the intention is to bring back the youngest students, pre-k, kinder, 1st, 2nd, and gradually begin to bring those students back."

Where is this extra money coming from to prepare students and staff for when they are back on campus?

“We did receive a significant portion of PPE equipment from the county, and then through the CARES Act, that came from the state, we have a pocket of money to utilize," said Escobedo.

What drives the decisions that are being made within your district?

“What drives the decisions is one, the daily rates cases," said Escobedo. "I also communicate on a weekly basis with the county health department and they share their metrics, number of hospital beds available - they have several metrics they look at. One of the things we're looking at is when we come back, obviously, how do we control contagion? I think this is a time where we all come together and know that mistakes are bound to happen. However, there are always solutions out there and we all need to come together, put the politics aside, and focus on our most precious asset which is our students and figure this out.”