Reopening date uncertain for Vista middle and high schools

Written by Sebastian Acosta

Vista Unified elementary schools will likely reopen soon, but middle and high schools may remain closed, school officials told the Vista Unified School Board last week. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave clarified instructions in the new state health order last week. It states that to reduce the spreading of COVID-19, all students from preschool through twelfth grade must wear face coverings.

Additionally, it says that student desks should be six feet from each other, but four feet is the minimum. The new order also warns that students should remain in a consistent, small group and should not intermingle with others. Although this may be easy for the lower grades, keeping “stable cohorts” will prove nearly impossible in middle and high schools, where students attend multiple different classes each day. 

Vista High school will provide full-time instruction to about 10,000 students when it reopens all its campuses in October. That number is roughly half of its total enrollment size. 

With San Diego reentering the “purple tier” of Gov. Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, some school districts, including San Marcos and Carlsbad, have been prohibited from reopening their secondary schools. Vista, however, is allowed to resume in-person learning, although its secondary schools may remain closed for some time while the logistics are worked out.

“Frankly, it’s just more complicated,” said Craig Wiblemo, executive director for student support services. “A student on a middle or high school campus who travels from room to room is necessarily going to be in several groups a day, and that’s a challenge.”

There are, however, two possible definitions of “stable groups”.

One definition would be students who attend school on identical, but alternating days. For example, students that attend school on Mondays and Wednesdays are separate from those that attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Under this definition, it will be much easier for secondary schools to reopen.

If, however, “stable groups” are defined as students whose entire schedule is perfectly identical, then it would be impossible to reopen secondary schools.

Until there is more clarification, middle and high schoolers will continue to remain at home.

Photo via Vista High School