How did we get here? 

Our kids have not set foot in a classroom in over a year. And while there have been alot of unknowns since the early stages of the pandemic, it quickly became clear that collectivley we were suffering from an abject lack of leadership. From the School Board, to the Superintendent, to the Mayor and even the Governor, Berkeley students suffered because our elected officials lacked the imagination, backbone, and will to lead. 

History of Failures

A brief history of the the last year's expiriment with distance learning .

March 4th, 2020

Governor Newsom declares a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 12th, 2020

The Superintendent announces all preschools, elementary schools, and middle schools, as well as Berkeley Adult School, will close on Monday, March 16, 2020, and Berkeley High School will close March 13, 2020.

 

The initial closure was set to last for three weeks, and the School District expressed “hope to re-open schools after Spring Break,” on Monday, April 6, 2020.

March 16th, 2020

The City of Berkeley Public Health Officer, as well as health officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara Counties, jointly announced shelter-in-place orders.  These orders effectively prohibited in-person instruction by the School District, allowing public and private K-12 schools to operate only “for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible,”

March 25th, 2020

The above orders are extended through May 1, 2020

April 7th, 2020

The Superintendent announces in-person instruction would likely be cancelled through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. 

May 18th, 2020

The City of Berkeley issues a new Order that allowing the resumption of “childcare establishments, summer camps, and other educational or recreational institutions or programs providing care or supervision for children of all ages,” including “public and private K-12 schools,” under specified health and safety restrictions. 

 

**Since June 2020 and continuing to the present, the City of Berkeley has offered summer camps and afterschool camps for Berkeley residents in groups of up to 14 children, with no known incidents of COVID-19 transmission

July 8th, 2020

The Superintendent informs BUSD parents to complete an “Instructional Choice Form” for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, asking parents to choose between two models: (1) a hybrid model combines in-person learning (two days per week) and distance learning (three days per week), with students in each class divided into two groups; and (2) a distance learning model to “support families who choose not to return to in-person instruction, with online instruction only,” and to “provide a backup plan in the event that a classroom or school must close down due to quarantine or local health orders.”

July 13th, 2020

Five days later the Superintendent announced that he would be recommending at the July 15, 2020 Board meeting the School District “begin our school year in Distance Learning,” claiming that “the City of Berkeley has not amended its Shelter-in-Place order to allow schools to open, and at this point we need to make a decision for the fall.”  The Superintendent also stated that, “As soon as it is possible to have students and staff safely return to school campuses, we will make that happen.”  The Superintendent further stated that, “Elementary and middle schools will stay in distance learning for the first eight weeks of instruction, until October 9th.  By September 15, we should be able to reassess and announce our capacity and timeline for the next steps to transition to on-campus teaching - if it is possible to do so in compliance with health guidance.”

July 17th, 2020

The CDPH issued new mandatory requirements regarding the reopening of schools for in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year.  CDPH generally required K-12 schools to remain closed until they were removed from the State’s “monitoring list” for 14 days (the “monitoring list” was later replaced and effectively became the “Widespread,” or purple, tier under the State’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”).  However, CDPH specifically allowed elementary schools to reopen on schedule, subject to approval of a “waiver” by the Local Health Officer, even while on the monitoring list. 

August 17th, 2020

BUSD begins 2020-2021 school year in full distance learning mode, with no in-person instruction.

Fall 2020

During Fall 2020, at least nine private schools in the City of Berkeley reopened (American International Montessori, Berkeley Rose Waldorf School, Berkwood Hedge, Black Pine Circle, Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, School of the Madeleine, Shu Ren International School, The Berkeley School, and Walden Center and School) and have remained open since that time. 

Sept. 16th, 2020

At the School Board meeting, the Superintendent stated that the School District had completed the first step of the waiver process established by Alameda County, and discussed the elements of the waiver process and the School District’s status toward completing them.

Sept. 18th,  2020

The Superintendent announced that “BUSD will not submit a waiver application to reopen our elementary schools while county transmission rates are listed as ‘Widespread.’  I recognize that for some families and staff this will be disappointing news, and for others this will come as a relief.”

Sept 22nd, 2020

Alameda County moves to the “Substantial,” or red, tier under the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, allowing all K-12 schools to reopen once the County had been in that tier for two weeks, and in compliance with state guidance.

Oct. 2nd,  2020

The City of Berkeley Health Officer issues an updated Order providing that “Primary schools may reopen for Grades TK-5 for in-person instruction on or after October 13, 2020 with a completed Site-Specific Reopening Plan.”  The Order also allowed several other types of indoor businesses to reopen with certain restrictions, including museums and galleries, gyms and fitness studios, personal care services such as waxing, massage, nail salons, skin care, piercings, and tattoo parlors, and religious ceremonies.

Oct. 7th, 2020

At the School Board meeting, the School District approves a plan establishing on-campus support for small cohorts, hiring outside staff to supervise distance learning for a few dozen students at three BUSD elementary schools.  This program begin's November 9, 2020. 

Oct. 21st 2020

At the School Board meeting, the School District approves January 13, 2021 as a “target date” for reopening PreK-second grade, and January 20, 2021 for grades 3-5. 

Nov. 5th, 2020

The City of Berkeley Health Officer further loosens its restrictions on schools to provide that “Schools may reopen for Grades TK-12 for in-person instruction with a completed Site-Specific Reopening Plan.”

Nov. 17th, 2020

Due to surging COVID-19 cases statewide, Alameda County was placed back in the “Widespread” tier.  According to CDPH, schools that had reopened were permitted to remain open, and elementary schools were still permitted to apply for waivers to reopen.

Dec. 18th, 2020

Despite the continued ability to seek a waiver for reopening elementary school, the Superintendent informed the BUSD community on  that “as a result of the mandatory public health orders, the Board of Education’s January 13th target date for reopening Pre-K and Grades TK-2 program is simply not possible to meet.  This means that we will return in January to Distance Learning, for all grades, and that we cannot say at this point when our schools will reopen.”

Dec. 18th, 2020

In the same message, the Superintendent noted that the Board “directed staff to continue negotiating with the district’s union partners so that we are ready to open as soon as it is safe and legal to do so.”  The Superintendent identified three “differences between the [School District’s current view on how to reopen elementary schools and the proposals BFT has put forward”:

 (A) - Who Should Teach In-Person.  The district has created a process for employees who are at higher risk from COVID-19 to seek a legal accommodation from in-person work.  The district believes that this accommodations process provides strong additional protection for high-risk individuals.  BFT is proposing that only teachers who volunteer to provide in-person instruction would do so.

(B) - When Elementary Schools Should Reopen.  The district believes that we should reopen when the community transmission rate returns to the Red Tier, in keeping with state and county public health guidelines.  BFT has proposed that school reopening would begin when the City is in the Orange Tier, and that schools would close again if the City returns to the Red Tier.

(C) - Student COVID-19 Testing.  The district is working diligently to create a student COVID-19 testing program.  However, because it is not a requirement for reopening, testing cannot be made mandatory for students. The state has also not provided any additional resources to districts to support student testing.  For these reasons, the district does not feel that student COVID testing should be a prerequisite for school reopening.  BFT has proposed that students must be tested in order to attend school.”

Jan. 14th, 2021

Jan. 20, 2021

A “Distance Learning Update” released by the School District demonstrated a 7.58% decline in enrollment from 2019-2020; massive attendance problems, especially among black, socio-economically disadvantaged, special education, and English language learners; and huge drops in academic performance among many

Feb. 1st, 2021

The School District posted and submitted its COVID-19 Safety Plan, as required under the CDPH Framework.

Feb. 2nd, 2021

The State of California reported that the adjusted case rate in Alameda County was 23.1.  Consequently, under the CDPH Framework, K-6 schools in Berkeley were permitted to reopen on February 8, 2021.  The adjusted case rate in Alameda County has continued to drop since that time

Feb. 9th, 2021

The Superintendent sends a message the BUSD community to “reiterate” the School District’s unanimous position that “students should return to campus and in-person learning as soon as public health officials determine that it is safe to do so.” The Superintendent noted that, “While distance learning is working for some, it is not working for many.  Children and families are suffering.  We have heard from many parents and caregivers who believe, consistent with emerging scientific research, that schools can reopen safely if certain health and safety measures are in place.  To be clear: we agree.”  The Superintendent then stated that “California law requires that public school districts negotiate with our labor partners with respect to the thresholds for reopening schools, even if public health guidelines state that it is safe to reopen. ... Currently, it is the position of the statewide unions that it is not safe to reopen elementary schools until we are in the ‘red tier’ of community spread, and there is an opportunity for educators to be vaccinated. … However, the District’s position is that, as public health officials have indicated, it is safe to open schools even before staff are vaccinated.”

Feb. 12th, 2021

The Superintendent sends a survey to BUSD elementary school families asking them to choose between two hybrid models.  The first option was in-person learning from 1:00-3:00 p.m. two days per week, a total of four hours per week of in-person time.  The second option was in-person learning from 9:15 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. two days per week.  Under both models, distance learning would continue to fulfill the vast majority of the required educational time.  Based on survey data released by the School District a week later, 63% of parents would choose to return to school if offered the first option, while 75.2% of parents would choose to return to school if offered the second option. 

Feb. 16th, 2021

The Superintendent announces that the School District and BFT “reached a tentative agreement that, once ratified, establishes a timeline for the reopening of all our schools, PK-12, into a hybrid model of instruction.”  The agreement allegedly set a reopening date of March 29, 2021 for preschool, preK, and grades K-2, April 12, 2021 for grades 3-9, and April 19, 2021 for grades 10-12.  The reopening dates were contingent on teachers and staff receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  The agreement also allows the School District “to proceed with its phased reopening plan five days after the community transmission rate in the County enters the state’s Orange tier, even if vaccinations have not yet been completed.”  The “hybrid model of instruction” was not defined.  The Superintendent stated that “state and local public health guidance continues to oblige districts to employ social distancing as one of many risk mitigation strategies, which reduces our ability to have all students on campus at once.”

Feb. 16th, 2021

The “Memorandum of Understanding” signed by BUSD and BFT on February 16, 2021 is subtitled “Phase 2 Reopening Thresholds,” and provides the following conditions for reopening BUSD schools:  (1) Vaccination of BUSD staff; (2) If vaccinations are not available or incomplete, reopening five days after the City of Berkeley and Alameda County are in the Moderate (orange) tier; (3) with regard to distancing, alleged “adherence to the guidelines of state and local public health officials,” but also a statement that “Classroom groups that reduce social distancing below 6 feet will be considered only on a case by case basis”; (4) staff testing every two weeks; (5) an agreement “to encourage families to participate in routine COVID-19 testing (target testing cadence: once per two week period)”; and (6) allowing “high-risk individuals” to continue to work remotely.

Feb. 17th, 2021

At the Board meeting the School District identified the distancing language under the CDPH Framework as “the reason for a hybrid model.”

March 9th,

2021

The adjusted case rate in Alameda County was 4.8, and the County was moved into the “Substantial” (red) tier.  Under the CDPH Framework, all public school grade levels are now permitted to reopen for in-person instruction