When will schools open?
We don’t know. Schools were initially authorized to open October 13, 2020 by Berkeley Public Health. Families were told the cohort program would drive insight into opening more cohorts for vulnerable students, with elementary students returning to class in a hybrid model on January 13th. There is no labor deal with Berkeley Federation of Teachers to support hybrid learning which would enable schools to open.
Can we open more schools in the purple or red tier?
Legally, yes. The superintendent has confirmed this in school board meetings. The mayor has confirmed BUSD could open more cohorts in purple tier in his online mayoral address meetings. The problem is staff. BFT has not come to an agreement with BUSD about a hybrid model of education in six months of negotiations. BUSD would need to hire staff externally.
Will the district open more cohorts at elementary schools?
There are currently 3 cohort programs at three elementary schools in Berkeley. When they were announced in November 2020, families were told these were pilot programs and the district intended to launch more. Currently there are 24 kids at each school site. No BFT staff are currently employed in the cohorts - BUSD hired external ‘child care’ providers who help kids get into Zoom classes on BUSD campuses. Children participating in a campus cohort program have some social time on campus outside of distance learning class time.
What is the current state of negotiations
between BUSD and the teachers’ union BFT?
The district dashboard has said staff negotiations have been ongoing since October 2020. The district has disclosed the gap between its current position and the union’s requests. As of January 20, 2021, the board revealed the following information:
What is BUSDparents.com doing to get schools to open in Berkeley?
Baseline, we keep on top of all of the moving issues and we share what we know with the 500+ parents on our email discussion list. We encourage healthy debate. We remind families weekly of key opportunities to get their voices heard at the school board, on city council, and at the state level. We organize online events, in-person protests, online petitions and letter writing campaigns. As a volunteer-driven, student/family advocacy organization we encourage new voices and new volunteers always. We are at a critical point and it’s very important to show up and make your voice heard. Lately, we have joined forces with other groups like our own, across the state, who have banded together under the #openschools mandate.
Should I write a letter to the Governor? The Superintendent?
The School Board? The Labor Union?
Yes! You can find emails and phone numbers for all of these and more at the bottom of our Get Involved page. BUSDparents and OpenSchoolsCA have been contacting elected officials to get transparency for months. We continue to meet, write and call them to advocate for reopening, and we could use your help.
What do Teachers think about Reopening?
Many of our kids’ teachers want to go back to school. But there are also those who do not. As with parents, teachers are concerned about safety. it is not always easy to follow the latest data on effective safety interventions and unfortunately, this information hasn’t been made readily available at the District level or in the press. We have called on BUSD to lead education and town hall meetings for everyone to get on the same page about the facts, and we are finally starting to see some interest!
Isn’t the Science on Safe School Reopening Split?
No, the science is not split. Dr Fauci, the CDC, Unicef and medical professionals across the country and around the world agree that given the many negative effects of keeping schools closed, the low virus transmission among children, and the effectiveness of masking and distance, the right choice is for schools to reopen as soon as public health officials deem it safe to do so. Please Read the News&Data tab on our website for lots of articles on the subject, and watch our Medical Expert Panel that answers many pertinent questions. This information is also widely available through multiple reputable news sources.
Why shouldn’t we wait until the Vaccine is readily Available?
Science has shown that the combination of masks and distancing in a school setting is as effective as vaccination. Adding to this, the shortage of available vaccine and the fact that clinical trials on children are only now beginning, there is no sound reason to wait until all students and staff are vaccinated, which will likely be late in 2021.
Shouldn’t we just get Teachers vaccinated and then reopen schools?
The Teachers’ Union has made it clear that teachers will not return to the classroom just because they are fully vaccinated against the virus. We support Teacher Vaccination but this is not a pathway to reopening.
What about school staff with Pre-Existing conditions?
BUSDparents and OpenSchoolsCA support waivers and exceptions for vulnerable teachers and those with vulnerable family members at home, to continue to work remotely.
Is it true that Superintendent Brent Stephens and Governor Newsom
both have kids attending in-person private school?
Yes. While we can not speak to any family’s individual choices around what is best for their children, this is true. As stakeholders in public education, we likewise desire choices around our children’s education, and advocate for their timely return to in-person instruction.
My kids are doing great with Distance Learning and I don’t want to return to In-person. What about the needs of my family?
BUSD is proposing a hybrid model of instruction allowing kids at home to stay at home. You will not be forced to return to the classroom just because the District offers an in-person option for the many families that need it.
What’s going on with the free lunch program?
Can I still access this program?
The free and reduced lunch program is still running through BUSD with limited hours. Participation in the program is only about 25% of the usual amount, but resources are available through the BUSD website. (https://www.berkeleyschools.net/departments/nutrition-services/meal-program-2020-21/)