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Lodi schools to start school year by distance learning, reversing previous decision to begin in-person

"We miss our kids, we know that that is the best form of learning, is live in person. But right now, it's not safe enough for all students and teachers."

LODI, Calif. — One day after San Joaquin County education and health officials recommended that districts start the new school year virtually, the Lodi Unified School District board recommended Tuesday that all classes begin 2020-2021 under a distance learning model.

The decision reverses a prior plan early this summer for students to return to a physical classroom on August 3. Under that plan, only students who didn't feel comfortable to return would be given a distance learning option.

The board will consider at a later date to make an exception allowing special education students to return to campuses.

In San Joaquin County, the number of coronavirus cases is surging. Of the county's 7,216 COVID-19 cases, Lodi has reported 563 cases, the second-most in the county.

On Monday, the San Joaquin County Office of Education and San Joaquin County Public Health Services provided joint guidance for the reopening of schools.

RELATED: Sacramento-area schools announce plans for the coming year

"Understanding the virus and its local community spread is essential when deciding when and how to reopen schools for the school year," the joint statement wrote. "It is for that reason that we are strongly recommending that schools and districts begin the 2020-2021 school year on a 100% distance learning model at least through the end of August."

Roughly 8,000 of the district's 30,000 student had signed up for distance learning, said Michell Orgon, President of the Lodi Education Association, the union representing Lodi teachers.

Lodi teachers showed up at the Lodi District Offices Tuesday, physically distanced but in numbers before the virtual school board meeting Tuesday. They were urging school leaders to re-consider allowing students to return to school.

"We miss our kids, we know that that is the best form of learning, is live in person," Orgon said. "But right now, it's not safe enough for all students and teachers."

Some parents also showed up in support of students returning to a physical classroom.

Lodi's school board did not address the future of school sports. They are waiting for more guidance from the body governing California’s school sports, the California Interscholastic Federation, before a decision is made.

All school and district offices will remain open. School leaders plan to provide an FAQ on the decision and is considering setting up a tech support line to help students and parents through any tech issues during distance learning.

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Giacomo Luca.



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WATCH MORE: California takes step back in reopening as coronavirus cases surge