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Stockton schools to start school year with 100% distance learning

Stockton Unified School District will begin the next school year as it ended the previous one — with distance learning.

STOCKTON, Calif. — Stockton schools will begin the next school year as they ended the previous one — with closed campuses and distance learning.

The Stockton Unified School District announced Monday that because of student and teacher safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, schools will start the year with 100% distance learning.

"We recognize that this will be disappointing to the many students, families and staff who were looking forward to returning to campus, reconnecting with one another, and continuing their education," Interim Superintendent Brian Biedermann said in a press release. "The difficult decision to close schools four months ago on March 13 was made because it was the best way to keep students and staff safe. This decision is no different."

Officials said SUSD will continue to work on a plan to return to in-person learning during the school year as soon as county health officials say that conditions allow them to open campuses safely.

San Joaquin County's board of supervisors and public health officer recommended in a joint statement Monday that all districts start the school year with distance learning "through at least the end of August 2020."

"At first, the efforts to 'flatten the curve' showed promising results," the joint statement said. "But today the numbers show a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases that has created a situation that is worse than it was on March 13, when San Joaquin County schools were recommended to close."

As of July 13, San Joaquin County has reported nearly 7,000 coronavirus cases, of which 2,956 are from Stockton.

County officials said in the statement that they will review their "recommendation in mid-August to determine if the situation has improved enough for schools to begin."

Stockton's school district, which enrolls more than 41,000 students, said it plans to support all students instruction as it continues to grapple with the impacts of a global pandemic. 

The district said it is ready to "support student instruction with distance learning, technology, and meal service." According to data from the California Department of Education, about 81% of students are English-language learners, foster youth, or eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

LaToya McNeil, who has a 5th grade son in the district, says she's grateful administrators are considering health and safety of the community, but she's concerned how it's balanced with children's emotional and educational needs.

McNeil said for parents who are working multiple jobs to afford day care or have children who are too old day care now run the risk of leaving children on their own.

"Where are these babies at, you know, when their only refuge was school," McNeil said.

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WATCH MORE: Governor Newsom gives update on California's response to COVID-19 (July 13, 2020)