San Diego Catholic high school files lawsuit against Newsom to reopen in the fall

St. Augustine High School
San Diego’s St. Augustine High School is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow in-person learning at the campus in the fall.
(Courtesy of St. Augustine High School)

St. Augustine High, a Catholic school, and the families of seven of its students filed a lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow the school to have in-person learning in the fall.

Newsom signed an executive order in July that forbids public and private schools from returning to in-person learning in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist, which includes San Diego County. The order requires schools to provide online learning.

St. Augustine is an all-boys school with an annual enrollment of 700 students that serves grades nine through 12. The school is in North Park.


“At Saints, we don’t believe remote learning is sufficient to provide a quality education our students are entitled to and our families have come to expect,” said St. Augustine Principal James Horne in a statement. “We are confident we can open our school safely, consistent with CDC and San Diego County health guidance.”

The school held summer school and athletic programs for more than 400 students. School leaders say they implemented rigorous safety measures and were able to serve students in person without any reports of positive coronavirus cases on campus.

The school installed UV lights in the air conditioning system during the summer and regularly sanitized surfaces. Students were required to wear face masks and practice social distancing, the school said.

St. Augustine offered in-person learning to 214 students and training programs for 192 athletes during June and July.

The school seeks to open in-person on Aug. 25.

Tuition at St. Augustine is about $22,670 per student, not including general activity and graduation fees. The school provides scholarships.

More than 53 percent of families at St. Augustine qualify for tuition assistance and the school has awarded more than $3.1 million in financial aid and scholarships in the last two years, according to a spokeswoman.

The school plans to hold distance learning for families who don’t want to send their children back to campus.


Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was filed with the Superior Court and names the attorney general, the state superintendent of schools and the state public health officer.

A similar lawsuit was filed against the governor last month by the Center for American Liberty, a conservative group, on behalf of some families. The suit argues that school closures disproportionately hurt disadvantaged students.

Also last month, the Orange County Board of Education voted to sue Newsom over his school closure orders.