Home / FAQ on SDJA K-12 2020-2021

FAQ on SDJA K-12 2020-2021

Please note that this continues to be an evolving situation. Guidelines, mandates, and best practices are changing frequently. The answers we provide below may change at times too. We will update you with new information and any pertinent updates. Thank you as always for your partnership and support. 

Campus Reopening

When did school start?

School started August 25.

Are students on campus?

Students started virtually and now, if they choose to, are coming back as part of our staggered campus re-opening.

On August 18th, San Diego County was removed from the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list. Our reopening schedule for K-6 is the following:

Campus reopening schedule for GMLS:

Thursday, September 3rd: Faculty in service, no classes K-5

Friday, September 4th:Orientation for new K-5 on campus students, no classes for campus-bound K-5 students, no classes for 4-5 virtual learners, classes as usual for K-3 virtual learners (who are not campus-bound). Families will be mailed their schedules for that day.

Tuesday, September 8th:
K students on campus, 8:25-8:40AM arrival
1st grade students on campus, 7:30-8:00AM arrival

Wednesday, September 9th:
K students on campus, 8:25-8:40AM arrival
1st-3rd grade students on campus, 7:30-8:00AM arrival

Thursday, September 10th:
K students on campus, 8:25-8:40AM arrival
1st-5th grade students on campus, 7:30-8:00AM arrival

Monday, September 14th
Regular schedule: K-5 students on campus, 7:30-8:00AM arrival

Tuesday, September 15th:
Late start: K-5 students on campus, 8:00-8:30AM arrival

Wednesday, September 16th
Regular schedule: K-5 students on campus, 7:30-8:00AM arrival

Campus Reopening schedule for MUS:

(Times to be determined, subject to change)

Friday, September 11th: Faculty in service. No classes 6-12.

Monday, September 14th: 6th grade students welcomed to campus for first day of on-campus instruction.

Thursday, September 17th: 7-8th grade students welcomed to campus for first day of on-campus instruction.

Monday, September 21st: 9th grade students welcomed to campus for first day of on-campus instruction.

Monday, September 28th: Yom Kippur- No classes.

Wednesday, September 30th: 10th-12th grade students welcomed to campus for on-campus instruction.

This information from the country outlines the reopening process. Note that we already have met the requirement in the first bullet point.


Are you requiring families to quarantine at all before returning to campus?

No. We ask that all students returning from international travel or any travel to areas with high infection rates get tested for COVID-19 upon return, and submit negative results to covid@sdja.com before returning to campus. Students who test positive should notify the SDJA nurse and remain at home per the latest county guidelines as confirmed by the school nurse. We are all responsible for the health of each other and these simple steps make it more likely that our community will remain healthy when campus reopens.

What happens if the county moves back into the tier 1-purple category due to increased COVID cases? 

Even if this occurs, we will still be able to continue with our entire plans for a staggered campus reopening for all grades. According to the county, “The day that a school initiates in-person education for a portion or all of its student body constitutes the school having reopened for in-person education.”

Why are you staggering the opening of the school year over the course of several weeks? Why do high school students have to wait the longest?

We know how eager our students and families are to return to campus, and we are eager to have you all here. However, pikuach nefesh–your physical and emotional wellbeing–continues to be our guiding principle as we implement our campus reopening plan. And, like most other local independent schools, we believe a phased reopening, beginning with our youngest students and ending with high school is the safest approach. We know that this might create complications for families with students in multiple divisions, and we very much appreciate your understanding. There are several reasons for a staggered reopening:

None of us have lived through this type of pandemic before. Reopening while minimizing risk is a tremendous challenge and responsibility. It requires many new protocols and it is more challenging to implement changes to student behaviors if we need to do so across many hundreds of students and across multiple divisions all at once.

We prefer to be careful- so we’d rather not rush and focus all of our attention on getting it right with smaller groups first.

In addition to the fact that older students are more likely to succeed at independent online learning, younger children learning at home are often a greater challenge for working parents.

There are a number of additional reasons why we are prioritizing younger grades in the order of return. As far as we know, it appears that older students have a higher risk of transmission than the younger ones. Globally, high schools seem to have been the least successful at opening by far. There are several reasons that might contribute to that challenge beyond possible biological/developmental differences( for example, older students are more difficult to supervise both at school and out of school). It is also much more difficult to cohort them because students in the upper school have more complex schedules with classroom movement and robust program choices in their academic pathways. We did not want to reduce this personalized learning experience for our high schoolers, and we are happy that they will still have access to a rich array of learning opportunities.

Are you requiring COVID tests and/or flu shots?

As we prepare for students’ staggered arrivals on campus, it would be very helpful to have as many students tested for COVID-19 as possible, and we would especially appreciate it if those results would be shared with the school. All such information will be kept confidential. Keeping infected students off of campus is an important step in preventing spread of the virus. In the coming days we will be communicating options for on and off-campus testing to maximize the number of students that are tested as they prepare to return to school.

Whose rules and guidelines are you following?

As we prepare our campus to be ready to open when that is allowed, we rely on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; County of San Diego Health and Human Services; San Diego County Office of Education; California Department of Social Services; California Department of Education; California Department of Public Health; and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

You may be interested in viewing this video from the County of San Diego, the San Diego County Office of Education, and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego detailing how schools can prepare a safe and healthy environment.

What happens if San Diego County infection rates increase again and state monitoring moves us from red back to purple?

Since we have been granted the right to open our campus and have begun operations, the county has clarified that unless there is a change in state or CDC regulations, it does not intend to close the school campus if the county were to be elevated to purple status (i.e.  in the event of a spike in infection rates).

Who is leading this planning process for SDJA?

We have a Re-Opening Task Force composed of senior leadership, external medical consultants, and lay leaders. Ultimately, reopening campus is at the final discretion of the SDJA Board of Trustees.


Key Decisions and Scenarios

Are you applying for a waiver so you can open campus regardless of the county guidelines?

Yes, we applied for and received the waiver, which provides us with more options. But we currently are in the midst of our staggered reopening unrelated to the waiver because the county is off of the Monitoring list. 

With the waiver, what grades will that include?

That scenario most likely would include K-6 grades.

Why do we have to tell you in advance whether our student will be on campus or learning virtually?

We believe strongly that even as we reopen campus, the decision to send or not send your child to campus is a personal one that we respect either way. To plan accordingly, however, and to have the right number of teachers and optimal class sizes, we need to know in advance how many students will be on campus and how many will be learning virtually. Following our successful transition to on-campus learning, we will now be able to accommodate mid-term return-to-campus requests for those who have committed to virtual learning, for grades 4-12. To request this change, please email your division head. Students in K-3 who have committed to virtual learning will be allowed to transition at the trimester mark (December 9th) if requested at least three weeks in advance (no later than November 19th). Please remember that students who are committed to on-campus learning will only be allowed to learn virtually in the event of extended absences due to medical conditions. There is no virtual learning option available for ECC students at this time.  

What if we intend to have our child be physically at the school and then change our mind last minute due to the changing COVID situation?  Will we still be able to be virtual?

No. Unless you are required to move to virtual learning because of exposure to COVID, you need to maintain your commitment for the duration of the trimester/semester. We are asking parents to make a selection for the first trimester in GMLS and the first semester in MUS so that we can set up our classes and assign teachers to classes. We won’t be able to shift our staffing and change children’s class assignments on such short notice. We are trying to offer flexibility, however, at the trimester and semester points in the year. Thus, parents only need to commit to a part of the school year at a time.

Students’ Educational Experience

Is there after-school tutoring on campus?

Unfortunately, not right now. Students cannot remain on campus once school is dismissed. If that changes we will let you know.

What if you have a lot of students who choose to be on campus or a lot of students who choose to do virtual learning? Will you combine classes?

We are prepared for a number of scenarios and will make sure that each student experiences the highest quality learning possible. For example, if only a few students in one class decide to engage in virtual learning, we may combine them with another class in their grade to create an optimal learning environment for them. 

Can you accommodate students with different learning abilities?

Yes. At SDJA, we pride ourselves on personalized learning that puts every student, regardless of abilities and challenges, to engage in meaningful educational experiences and to thrive. This mindset and approach absolutely remains regardless of whether learning occurs on campus or virtually.

Aside from the obvious, what are the differences in terms of time, expectations, and other components between in-person learning and virtual?

Even for students who choose our virtual learning program, teachers are teaching from their classrooms. We’ve upgraded technology in classrooms to have better Wifi and multiple cameras that follow teacher movement to create as much of an “in-person feel” as possible.

Our virtual learning program is designed to be academically rigorous; to include one-on-one, small group, and all-class learning sessions; and to inspire our students to learn. Our expectations about attendance, completing work, and coming to class ready to engage are the same regardless of where that learning occurs. At the same time, particularly for our younger grades, we are very cognizant about the amount of screen time we ask of our students and are committed to creating a healthy virtual educational environment. You can see our GMLS Handbook with virtual learning program, and our MUS Handbook with virtual learning program.

How do you manage time on Zoom for younger grades specifically?

When we refer to live teaching/Zoom in our virtual learning schedule, that means students start with a live session with their teacher to welcome them, review the activities, teach a short lesson and answer questions. This could be as short as 10 minutes; we always make it age-appropriate and are sensitive to attention spans. Then the students will do an activity, but the teacher will keep the Zoom session open. That way, as students are working on their activity, they can turn back to their computer to ask the teacher for help. So, even if you see an hour of a Zoom session in the schedule, it’s not simply an hour of looking at a computer screen. It’s allotted time for students to talk to their teachers as needed.

Are classes mixing together on campus?

GMLS classes are not co-mingling while on campus together. MUS classes will have minimal co-mingling while maintaining physical distance among students and faculty.

If a student opts for virtual learning even once campus reopens, will they be able to participate in class group work?

Yes. Group work will be conducted through Zoom, Google, and new platforms to SDJA like Mural.

What about Jewish life on campus? What will Upper School minyan look like? How will the school celebrate holidays while maintaining safety rules and yet still experiencing the warmth of holidays that is special at SDJA?

Jewish life is a cornerstone of the SDJA student experience. While we are in our virtual learning program, Jewish holiday programming, Upper School Minyan, and KabShab all will still take place by our student-led Jewish Life committee (in Upper School) in collaboration with our Judaic Studies and Jewish Life faculty leaders. All these programs will be conducted through Zoom.

Health and Safety

How are you monitoring students’ health?

We have a two-step standard of care for health screening and temperature checks. First, daily at-home screening will be required such that all students will take (or have taken for them) and register their temperature daily through the emocha health app, in addition to answering screening questions regarding symptoms and exposure to anyone having COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19. Once cleared the emocha app will produce a green badge icon that will be needed to enter campus. Upon arriving on campus, students will have their temperatures screened using touchless infrared thermometers, either at the point of curbside drop-off by a parent, or, in the case of students that drive themselves, by passing through a digital temperature taking kiosk.  These same procedures will apply to teachers and the limited number of staff who come onto campus.

The emocha app provides important data and analytics to responsible school personnel, which can be viewed on dashboards.  In this way, SDJA can effectively monitor every individual’s compliance, and through consultation with outside health experts, perform aspects of population health management to assist with monitoring and to inform decision making.

If anyone develops even one symptom while on campus, we will follow the actions as outlined in the San Diego County’s  Fever / COVID-19 Symptom Decision Tree. Note that if a fever  is the only symptom, the Decision Tree guides us to let the student cool off in isolation for 30 minutes, retake her or his temperature, and then they can return to class if the temperature decreases.

What happens if someone who is on campus is symptomatic and/or tests positive for COVID-19?

Please note that local authorities and our medical consultants continue to update and refine these guidelines. We will update you as these guidelines develop. 

  • SDJA will not permit any individual with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 on campus.  Home and on-campus entry screening are designed to enable this.  Once on campus, teachers will monitor students and themselves for signs and symptoms during the course of the day.  Anyone developing signs and symptoms will be escorted to isolation space to be picked up by their parent or guardian.
  • SDJA will not allow sick staff members and students to return to campus until they have met county and CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation. This includes three consecutive days without a fever without the use of fever-reducing medication and ten days since symptoms first appeared. Again, we are utilizing San Diego County’s  Fever / COVID-19 Symptom Decision Tree to guide us in taking appropriate actions.
  • If you or your child(ren) know that you came in close contact (within 6 feet for a period of 15 minutes or more) with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, your student should stay home and quarantine for a period of 14 days from last exposure. In fact this is one of the questions asked as part of the daily emocha home screening.  SDJA is well equipped to toggle between on-campus and remote learning for any individual student. An absence of this type will not count towards truancy.
  • If a student, teacher, or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, or if there is an outbreak at the school, the School Nurse, COO/CFO, Director, Security & Safety, Facilities Director, Human Resources Director, and Head of School (collectively known as our COVID-19 Team) will be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns.  The team will follow the guidance in the CDPH Framework for K-12 Schools, as well as CDPH guidelines, Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace, which contain detailed recommendations for establishing a plan to identify cases, communicating with workers and other exposed persons, and conducting and assisting with contact tracing. The COVID-19 Team will immediately coordinate gathering and review of information, communications with others, and all appropriate and necessary investigation to support contact tracing and compilation of a list of potentially exposed individuals. The School Nurse, and as needed other members of the COVID-19 Team, will identify individuals who have been in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more in an indoor environment) of an infected person and take steps to isolate the COVID-19 positive person or people and close contacts.  All members of the team may be called upon to assist with contact tracing, under the guidance of the School Nurse.
  • In consultation with our county health department and other medical advisors, we are determining at what point a class or the entire school needs to close after a person or people test positive, and the length of closure necessary.  If 5% or more of our on-campus population has tested positive for COVID-19 at any given time, this signals a likely closure of the affected cohort, division, and/or school.

What is the school’s approach for testing of students, teachers and staff for COVID-19?

SDJA will recommend that any person who screens with symptoms, fever, or becomes sick to get a COVID-19 test with their healthcare provider or at a community testing site. Site options will be provided. The identities of individuals who are perceived to be a COVID-19 risk, or who are diagnosed, will be preserved within the parameters of FERPA and state laws regarding privacy.

What changes have you made to campus?

We’ve made significant changes to campus to create the healthiest environment possible once campus reopens:

  • The three SDJA schools will be operating within defined boundaries on campus, and students will stay in strict cohorts to avoid intermixing.
  • Ingress, egress and pedestrian flow is being mapped and labeled with signage and ground markers that will maximize social distancing and intermixing on walkways and in outdoor areas.  In addition to supervision by teachers, monitors and guides will be assigned throughout campus to help with pedestrian flow and social distancing.
  •  “Traffic patterns” on stairs will be marked so students will be able to move around campus while maintaining the SDJA health and safety guidelines.
  • Using our expansive campus, additional indoor and outdoor classrooms have been configured to allow for smaller class sizes and cohorts.
  • Classroom furniture is set up to maximize physical distancing, with students sitting at least six feet apart.
  • We are intensifying healthy air ventilation in all indoor spaces by modifying our HVAC settings to maximize outside air flow, and installing UV-C germicidal lamps in our HVAC ducting. These UV-C lamps, which are frequently used in hospital settings, destroy viruses, bacteria, mold and other pathogens as air flows through the ducting, before entering  classrooms and indoor spaces.
  • We will also operate with campus windows and doors open to maximize outside air circulation within indoor spaces.  We are installing new operable windows, window screens, and wall-mounted fans in classrooms to maximize fresh, circulating air.  In short, we want to make the “indoors” feel as much like the “outdoors” as possible, and this is aided by our close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and associated breezes flowing through our campus.

How are you cleaning classrooms?

We are deep cleaning carpets and tiles, and sanitizing classroom furniture, restrooms, high-touch surfaces such as door handles and rails, and other areas of campus using products that are safe and are approved for use against SARS- CoV-2. Once campus reopens, cleaning and disinfecting will occur throughout the day, and throughout after-school hours, in accordance with written protocols and performance logs.  We are increasing SDJA staffing to perform these intensified cleaning and disinfecting duties, as well as increasing the scope of work by our professional cleaning company, Personalized Building Services.

Will children wear masks?

Students in grades K-12 will be required to wear masks while on campus, except during lunch and physical education (during which times masks will be stored in marked paper bags), and unless an exemption is granted (e.g., due to health issues associated with wearing a mask). A face shield with drapes will be required if the student has an exemption from wearing a mask.  We are providing a complimentary SDJA logo face covering to all students that will be on campus, and will maintain a stock of cloth face coverings within each school division, in case a student does not have one.

What healthy hygiene practices and resources are being put into place?

Teachers will instill good habits by monitoring student handwashing, doing it themselves, and talking about its importance. Twenty-second hand washing will be required of students before meals, after restroom use, and at regular intervals throughout the day. Hand sanitizing will occur before entering any classroom, while inside a classroom, and before leaving the classroom for any reason. In addition, hand sanitizer will be available and utilized at various locations around campus.

What are the procedures for usage of restrooms K-5 students?

In GMLS, we are assigning classes to specific bathrooms. No more than 2-3 students will be allowed in a bathroom at a time. Students must wait their turn outside the bathroom in a socially-distant line.

What if students don’t follow rules about physical distancing, wearing masks, or other measures you’ve put in place?

We are implementing standards and training teachers and staff so that we do our very best to enforce these rules, which were developed with the health and safety of all of our families in mind. Teachers will clearly articulate and model the rules, students will be reminded about them frequently, and we will foster an environment where our value of pikuach nefesh—physical and emotional health and safety—is top of mind for all.  If a student is unable to consistently abide by the rules and standards that are trained and enforced, they will be required to transition to SDJA’s virtual learning program.

Can my family travel during the school year?

Yes, but if your child (or if faculty) travels internationally, she or he will have to wait 14 days from the return date before they can then return to campus.

Food and Campus Privileges 

Will you provide food services?

We will not offer food services when campus initially reopens, and will evaluate doing so at a later time. When we reopen initially, we really need to focus time and energy on the absolute essentials to create a healthy and safe environment.

Will seniors be able to leave school during free periods? 

No. The senior privilege of leaving campus during free periods and lunch is suspended during this time.  

Can students order food in for lunch?

Food delivery to campus also will not be allowed, as we are minimizing the number of individuals and activities on campus. All students will be required to bring their own food to school daily.

Where will students eat lunch?

Weather permitting, GMLS students will each lunch at the outside lunch areas in an assigned, socially distanced seating arrangement. Lunch times will be staggered for the various grade cohorts. MUS students will also each lunch outdoors, within  assigned quads and courtyards that will be zoned and marked for personal distancing.  Lunch and other outdoor activities will be closely monitored.

Can students have snacks indoors?

Eating outside is best. If it’s raining and there’s no other option, then snack time will occur inside. We’ll pay extra attention to physical distance, students not facing each other, and hand washing. Students should refrain from talking (as much as possible) during snack time in an effort to keep air droplets at a minimum.

What if my child has to leave school during the day and then return?

We strongly recommend that parents do not call out their children during the day except for medical appointments. If a student is called out by a parent, they will need to follow the two-step standard of care for health screening,by completing the emocha screen and obtaining a green badge, and then undergoing a temperature screen at curbside or an assigned location before entering any buildings on campus.

Will students have lockers?


Can Upper Division hang out in the parking lot before, during, or after school?

​The MUS parking lot, along with most other spaces on campus, will be off limits for gathering of students. But the MUS quad and promenade will be set-up and marked for personal distancing. Students in a free period can be in those areas. 

Will Upper Division offer after school activities and athletics?

The MUS aims to provide co-curricular programming, such as student government, clubs, and Jewish Life activities while we are virtual. When we reopen , we will offer co-curricular programming within the health and safety guidelines adopted by SDJA.

Interscholastic athletics is postponed until further guidance is released by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). We are designing virtual options to tend to the physical well-being of all MUS students.

Will after-school childcare be available for K-5 students when campus is re-opened?” 

We will not provide childcare because this requires mixing students between grade levels and classes. As the year progresses, however, this will be re-evaluated.

What is your cell phone policy during this time? 

The current cell phone policy will remain in effect. But instead of having the students place their phone in a basket, all phones will be placed in an open area in the classroom. The students will pick up their phone when they depart the classroom. 



Are you requiring parents to sign a social contract to commit to limiting physical interactions off campus?
We cannot “police” what parents and students do off campus so we are not creating any type of social contract. We are however asking that all families recognize that their actions directly will impact the lives of others. We are an SDJA family made up of families. And we really are all in this together, and we ask that everyone does their part.

Will tuition be reduced this year since you might not be on campus the entire time?

We currently have no plans to reduce tuition because we are not generating any surpluses. Rather, all of the available funds are being invested to deliver learning at the high standard that our community deserves, whether that occurs on campus or virtually. This includes investments in additional teachers, teacher assistants, faculty fellows, mental health professionals, technology, and the many health and safety programs described throughout this FAQ.

Are you changing the Open Door program in any way this year?

No. The Open Door program will remain the exact same. A student must enroll in and attend kindergarten or 9th grade to begin the program.

What about campus security if you’re keeping open so many doors and windows?

Security and Safety are always paramount. First, with a significantly reduced on-campus population, in comparison to pre-COVID-19 times, we can more effectively control and monitor individuals on campus.  Along with Director of Security & Safety, Ken Freshwater, we will also have one or more of SDJA’s Associate Directors (all former law enforcement) on campus, along with a roaming guard(s) from our third party security company, Securitas, as deemed necessary.  We are in direct communication with local law enforcement regarding the change in campus environment this school year, and expect an increased awareness and presence by them during the year. The open campus schedule will also be reduced, such that our closed campus intrusion detection system is active for a longer period of time.

Will the school be using its buses, vans or charter vehicles?

No.  There will be no field trip or off-campus activities that necessitate the use of SDJA’s fleet, or the need for contracted transportation services.