San Diego Opens Schools to Undocumented Kids While Students Learn Remotely

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March 30, 2021

San Diego Unified School District teachers will provide in-person instruction to undocumented migrant children without reopening classrooms for other students in the district.

The San Diego County Office of Education published a notice Monday asking for local teachers to participate in an "in-person educational program" for unaccompanied migrant girls who are being held in a convention center. Documented students enrolled in San Diego public schools aren't scheduled to receive face-to-face instruction until April 12. 

San Diego County superintendent of schools Paul Gothold said in a statement that children have a right to receive an education regardless of whether they are documented. 

"All children in California, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to education. We also have a moral obligation to ensure a bright future for our children," Gothold said. "School employees have already been asked to go above and beyond during the pandemic, and we are committed to ensuring every student has access to a quality education while they are in our region." 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the move at a press conference on Tuesday, saying San Diego students will be back in the classroom after spring break. 

But San Diego County supervisor Jim Desmond said San Diego students should be provided with the same opportunities as migrant children.  

"The Office of Education is sending teachers over for in-person classroom training, but our own kids here in San Diego County can't get in-person training," Desmond said. "I'm glad they're getting their educational opportunity but so should our kids."

Officials expect that up to 1,500 migrants will be housed at the San Diego Convention Center through mid-July. Many of these migrants have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to KUSI San Diego. 

While migrant children will receive an in-person education, San Diego Unified School District superintendent Cindy Marten has led the push to keep students at home, learning remotely. President Joe Biden nominated Marten, who has caught flak for ignoring sexual assault allegations within the district, for the number two spot at the Department of Education.

The coronavirus pandemic adds additional stress to the recent influx of migrants at the southern border. While the Biden administration has so far refused to call the situation a "crisis," the average number of migrants crossing the border has skyrocketed over the past year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended nearly 100,000 undocumented migrants in February alone.