UC San Diego Panel Report

The following report was drafted by San Diego Unified’s consulting physician, Dr. Howard Taras based on input from leading scientific and medical experts at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Taras delivered his report to Superintendent Cindy Marten and San Diego Education Association President Kisha Borden on Friday, Feb. 19.

Report

On Monday, Feb. 22, the leaders from both organizations met to discuss the recommendations and agree on a plan to safely reopen schools. Based on those conversations, San Diego Unified announced plans, Feb. 23, to reopen based on the following conditions:

  1. Safety mitigations adopted in August 2020 are maintained
  2. School staff who wish to get vaccinated should have the chance to do so
  3. Schools can reopen at all grade levels once the county reaches the state’s covid-19 red tier

The decision to reopen for all grade levels in the red tier is a standard recommended by the state for secondary students, although still more strict than the 14 cases per 100,000 recommended by the CDC and the panel (for schools without a testing program) or at any case rate that was not rapidly rising (for schools with a testing program). The standard adopted for elementary school students -- 7 cases per 100,000 -- is more restrictive than the state recommendation of 25 cases per 100,000.  The panel agreed that threshold was largely arbitrary. School leaders and educators felt the more restrictive standards proposed by the State Legislature in AB / SB 86 were most appropriate given the unique urban conditions of San Diego Unified.


School leaders and employee representatives also agreed on the importance of vaccinating all school workers, or at least those who wish to receive the vaccine, before reopening. They cited 3 reasons for this position:

  1. Vaccinating teachers will help stop the spread of the virus. The more people we can get vaccinated, the more likely we are to stay ahead of the new UK variant and others. The development of the new California variant is especially concerning. With more than 15,000 active employees, getting many vaccinated will make a difference;
  2. Workplace stability, as recognized by one of the UC San Diego panel experts. There’s no point in reopening schools if large numbers of educators immediately fall ill and not enough substitutes are available to keep classrooms open, as has happened in surrounding districts;
  3. It is an added layer of safety. Dr. Fauci said that although vaccinating teachers is not a requirement to reopening schools in his mind, vaccinating teachers would be ideal.

Taken together, the above reflects our conviction that it’s important to reopen schools in a way that brings people together.