Dear BUSD Families, Students, and Staff,
We are now one week away from the start of the school year, and I write with important information for all families.
First, on behalf of all our district staff, welcome back. The first day of school, Monday, August 17th, is just a week away. While the school year begins in Distance Learning, I remain optimistic about our ability as a community to weather these difficult times together, keeping health and equity at the center of all our decisions.
This summer has been challenging because of the ongoing troubling news about the spread of COVID-19, and it has been inspiring, as mass protests continue to direct the attention of our leaders and institutions – BUSD included – to the ongoing need for racial justice. We all step into this new school year with commitments to health and equity for our students, family, and staff – and this will require that we work together. This is work we must embrace in all of its complexity.
Details about BUSD’s new Distance Learning Plan, Back to School, Fall 2020, can be found on our website.
The same plan is available in Spanish: Regreso a Classes Otoño 2020.
In addition to this plan, I hope you’ll read about several important updates:
Most Class Lists Will be Available beginning August 10
Although class lists are usually distributed the day before school begins, this year elementary class lists will be available for families and students on August 10, as will schedules for students at Berkeley High School. Middle school principals are working to finalize their schedules this week. Elementary schools will email lists to families on the 10th, and middle and high school class schedules will be available by checking your family’s Illuminate account. Please reach out to your school principal if you experience an issue. Please note that BUSD is unable to distribute parent contact information to the school community due to privacy laws.
PTA Family Directories
Most school PTA’s are planning to expedite the creation of a parent directory so that families can reach out to one another as the year begins. Specific information about your school’s parent directory will come directly from the PTA.
School Start Times
Beginning on August 17th, all BUSD elementary schools will begin at 9:00 am. During the first two weeks of school, elementary teachers will begin each day with a class meeting and instruction, and will schedule individual family meetings during the rest of the day. Families will receive work and assessments from their child’s teacher, as well as “how to” videos related to Seesaw, Google Classroom, Zoom, and other applications that will be central to the distance learning experience.
Also beginning on August 17th, all BUSD middle schools and Berkeley High School will begin at 9:15 am, and this will be the start time during this period of distance learning. Berkeley Technology Academy begins the school day at 10:00.
When we surveyed parents/guardians and high school students, we found that more families (53%) and high school students (55%) preferred the earlier start time, fewer families (40%) and high school students (26%) preferred the later start time (with the remainder having no preference or choosing an intermediate time). Meanwhile, half of Berkeley High teachers with school-age children have a strong preference for a later start time. 40% of teachers with school-age children prefer the earlier start time. We regret there was no perfect solution that worked for everyone.
Virtual Town Halls
Last week, we were appreciative of the hundreds of families and students who joined us for Town Hall events about the new BUSD Distance Learning Plan. This week, we look forward to three additional Town Hall events. The Zoom Links are below and also posted at berkeleyschools.net
Monday, August 10, 6:30 – 8:00, Town Hall for Families of Children with Disabilities
Tuesday, August 11, 6:30 – 8:00, Affinity-Based Town Hall for African American Families
Wednesday, August 12, 6:00 – 7:00: Town Hall for Berkeley High School Students
Links to recordings of last week’s Town Halls are available on the BUSD YouTube channel, which is also where you can watch live streaming of events.
A recent addition to the BUSD YouTube channel is an August 5th webinar on Schools and Public Health during COVID, with presenters from UCSF and Berkeley Public Health, who responded to a Q&A with the BUSD management team and labor leadership.
Updated COVID-19 Resource Page
BUSD continues to update our COVID-19 Information and Resources web page on a regular basis. We encourage you to visit for additional information about meals, Chromebooks, mental health resources, and housing and financial support.
New COVID-19 Testing Pilot Program at Berkeley Adult School, 1701 San Pablo Avenue
BUSD is pleased to host a COVID-19 pilot testing program offered by the City of Berkeley to provide additional COVID-19 testing to the Berkeley community. Curative, Inc’s self-administered oral fluid test is widely used for drive-up testing in the City of Los Angeles. This pilot, which offers the same test in a walk-up kiosk, is part of the City’s efforts to expand access to testing for everyone in our community. Information about this testing pilot, including links for appointments, is available at this City of Berkeley link.
Materials Distribution This Week – Please Be Cautious
BUSD schools will begin distributing materials to families this coming week, August 10 – 14. Most schools have organized these distributions so that families can drive by the school. In the event that any parent, volunteer, or staff member is on-campus this week, please remember that we all share important responsibilities to keep each other safe. This includes wearing a face covering, keeping a six foot distance from other people, and frequently washing or sanitizing your hands.
As we welcome all our families back to a new school year, we continue to be committed to our Berkeley community, and to make our very best effort to adapt to the changing, challenging circumstances of this pandemic.