As this week draws to a close, I can confidently and safely say that our district is well-equipped and ready to face any critical incidents such as the natural disasters this week. Although the scope and scale of this week’s wildfires had minimal real impact to our facilities, schools and students, we saw the positive results of collaboration, coordination and communication.
On Wednesday evening, after in-depth and thoughtful conversations with superintendents across San Diego County, our School Police Department and other district experts, the decision was made to close all San Diego Unified schools and child development centers on May 15. Further collaboration with city and county officials resulted in the decision to open all San Diego schools on Friday, May 16, with the exception of the schools in the Scripps Ranch and Mira Mesa clusters.
A great many factors must be weighed when decisions are made to close schools. It is not an easy or quick decision. Closing schools impacts all of our families, employees and most importantly our students. It results in a loss of learning. We have to weigh student safety, knowing that most of the time, the safest place for a child is at school.
My decision to close and reopen schools was not made in isolation. It was based on multiple collaborative discussions, not only with district personnel but also through communication with our city and county emergency agencies. It was a regional effort using detailed and up-to-date weather forecasts, air quality and fire information. There was a common goal: securing the safety and well-being of the public during the devastating wildfires. Among the factors considered in the decision-making process were potential threat of new fires, air quality, staff availability, staff living in evacuated areas, potential power outages, keeping roadways clear and our ability to provide resources, i.e., police, food and transportation, etc.
We practiced an abundance of caution and collaborated with our brother and sister districts to make resources available to all. Of the 42 school districts within San Diego County, 29 were closed on Thursday and 20 were closed on Friday, all of which were north of San Diego Unified. No districts south of San Diego Unified closed.
I appreciate the understanding by not only our families, but our employees, as these difficult decisions were implemented. I witnessed amazing teamwork and am proud to work beside you all as your superintendent. Your focus on doing what is in the best interest of our community as a whole was at the heart of all decisions.
Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes and to those who have been evacuated, with their homes still threatened. Some are own employees. I am grateful to the firefighters, law enforcement officers, first responders and our own School Police officers who are working around the clock to protect us all. My hope is that these dangerous conditions are mitigated over the next several days and all schools can return to normal next week.
I wish you a restful, relaxing and much cooler weekend.