BUSD: Important Message re Fall 2020 / Otoño de 2020

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Dear BUSD Parent/Caregiver,

In order to prepare for the new school year beginning on August 17, our district leadership, teachers and staff have been working to adapt our facilities, programs and practices to follow constantly evolving state and local health guidelines.  

BUSD is planning to transition to on-campus learning if the current Shelter-in-Place Order is modified to allow schools campuses to open, and when we are able to provide programs that comply with health orders and best practices.

The goal of BUSD in the 2020-2021 school year is to balance the complex variety of needs that students, families, and staff are currently confronting, including reducing the risk of COVID-19 for staff and students, addressing student learning loss and isolation, and supporting families to return to work. We are also committed to improving the quality of Distance Learning, increasing access to related technologies and connectivity for students and educators, maximizing on-campus learning opportunities and providing support to students and families who have been most impacted by the pandemic and shelter-in-place conditions..

Though our plans are still in development, we do know that on-campus learning will look very different from what we were used to before schools closed in March. We are treating the risk of COVID-19 seriously; there will be fewer students on campus, reduced schedules, requirements for face coverings for students and staff, social distancing, and other program and facility modifications. 

This afternoon you will receive an important email from the District with the subject line “Fall Instructional Program” asking you to indicate your preference for how your student will participate in learning when the 2020-2021 school year begins on August 17.  You’ll be asked to fill out an Instructional Choice Form and choose between these two models:

A Hybrid Model:  This model is a hybrid in that it combines in-person learning and distance learning. This model assumes that County and City Health Officers amend the current Shelter-in-Place Order to permit instruction on school campuses. Students will be divided into groups that attend school two days per week, with a schedule that provides instruction online with teachers as well as independent work 3 days a week. The reason for dividing students into two groups is to create small, stable cohorts at the elementary level, and social distancing at the middle and high school level – two practices that are included in both County and City health guidelines for schools.

A Distance Learning Model: This model will support families who choose not to return to in-person instruction, with online instruction only. This model will also provide a backup plan in the event that a classroom or school must close down due to quarantine or local health orders. The revised Distance Learning model for next year will satisfy or exceed the new state requirements for daily instructional time, live interaction with teachers, and independent assignments.

I understand that this is an important decision to make, one made especially challenging due to the constantly evolving conditions and guidance regarding COVID-19.  We also recognize that even if you select the Hybrid Model, it may not be possible to offer that option in August 2020 if conditions do not yet permit us to open schools to on-campus learning. In this case, students will all begin in Distance Learning before transitioning to a Hybrid Model when possible.

To help you make this decision, I have outlined our current plans for risk reduction in our schools. BUSD is working with Berkeley Public Health and in alignment with Alameda County Office of Education to prepare for on-campus learning. Current guidance includes, but is not limited to, the following risk reduction practices:

Daily Screening

Students/families and staff self-screen at home and will also be screened before entering the building. Screening may include visual screening, temperature checks and checklist questions. 

Face Coverings

Cloth face coverings required (except when eating or drinking) for all staff and for students in Kindergarten and above, with the exception of staff and students unable to wear them due to special circumstances, in which case face shields are permissible as a substitute, worn with a cloth drape secured across the bottom.

Cohorts (aka Bubble Groups)

As practicable, students should remain in the same space and in groups as small and as consistent as possible. When it is not possible to remain in stable cohorts within the same space (middle and high school), face coverings and limiting group gatherings are a higher priority.

Social / Physical Distancing

As practicable, desks to be placed 4-6 feet apart and minimizing face-to-face contact. However, with stable cohorts in place it’s permissible to relax the 6 feet recommendation if it ensures more students receive in-class instruction, in which case face coverings and cohort stability are high priorities.

Hygiene

Additional time for handwashing and/or sanitizing will be provided for students. BUSD is  also planning the installation of permanent handwashing/bottle filling stations as replacements for many of the existing drinking fountains and sinks on all campuses, to be completed during the fall semester.

Cleaning 

Daily cleaning, including common and high-touch spaces in the school will be performed by custodians and other staff, and enhanced by the recent purchase of electrostatic cleaners. Training on facilities cleaning will be consistent with guidelines established by the CDC. Cleaning supplies will be provided to custodians, office staff, and teachers.

Ventilation and Outdoor Space Use 

The use of outdoor spaces is being prioritized, and indoor air filters have been upgraded, including many up to MERV-13 (which also addresses air quality for smoke events.) For classrooms without filtration, BUSD is acquiring portable air purifiers for classrooms.

I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to develop a plan to provide the best possible educational opportunities, while taking seriously the need to reduce the risks associated with the coronavirus.  Please look for an email later today with a link to the Instructional Choice Form where you can indicate your choice for your student(s), and note these important dates for further communications:

July 8

Instructional Program Choice Form sent to Families

July 15

Deadline to submit Instructional Program Choice form 

July 15

Fall 2020 update at Special School Board meeting

July 16

Email update to community about Fall 2020 Plans

July 29

Approval of Fall 2020 Plan at Special School Board Meeting

July 31

Final Fall 2020 plan communicated to staff and families

August 3 – 14

Weekly updates to students and staff about Fall Program

August 17

First day of school for students

Sincerely, 

Brent Stephens, Ed.D

Superintendent

P.S.  You may have seen an article in Berkeleyside (July 7) about BUSD’s fall plans. Unfortunately the article contained several errors. Please rely upon our direct communications, and on board meetings, for the best source of current information on fall planning. Here is information about how to attend online School Board meetings

We have asked for corrections to the Berkeleyside article, including the incorrect statement that BUSD is not planning to have middle and high school students on campus in the fall. BUSD is currently working actively on a plan to reopen middle and high school campuses, if this is permitted by the County and City Health Department’s Health orders. A return to on-campus learning in middle and high school, just as with elementary schools, would require a reduction of class sizes by 50% so that social distancing is possible. This would reduce the number of days that most students can be on campus to two days per week.