On-campus classes at Berkeley High School (above) will not will be happening next semester. Photo: Pete Rosos

Update, July 8:  The school district shared updated, bilingual guidance with families regarding its developing plans for the Fall 2020 school year in its newsletter.

Original story: Berkeley Unified School District will pair in-person classes with distance learning for K-12 students beginning in August — if, and only if, county and local shelter-in-place guidelines move into to the next phase of reopening.

The city of Berkeley is following a reopening roadmap that’s currently two stages away from opening up schools to in-person instruction. With COVID-19 cases increasing in Alameda County and throughout the Bay Area, these plans may be put on pause, or move backwards, before school is set to resume on Aug. 17.

“Our ability to reopen schools depends first on the amendment of the current shelter-in-place order,” Superintendent Brent Stephens told Berkeleyside. “If that shelter in place is not changed, then I would assume our ability to open schools is restricted, as it is right now.”

“If shelter in place is not changed…our ability to open schools is restricted, as it is right now.” — Superintendent Brent Stephens

The potential hybrid instruction plan — which is subject to change — will apply to all grade levels, but the on-campus learning model for middle and high schools is still being developed, and would initially be more limited than for younger students. Classes for Berkeley’s middle and high schools will be online, but the campuses may be used once a week for clubs, athletics and technical training, according to the July 1 fall planning update.

Pre-K classes will have “small, stable cohorts, or bubble groups,” due to the difficulty of maintaining social distancing among children. As BUSD reported in June, Pre-K classes will be reduced from 24 to 12 students. The district considered a possible plan to separate elementary school students into “Group A” on Monday and Tuesday and “Group B” on Thursday and Friday. The first group will stagger kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade. The second group will include English Language Development, Response to Intervention & Instruction, Special Education and a still-in-development “Ed Camp” program.

Berkeley Elementary Schools On-Campus Schedules
On-campus schedules for BUSD elementary schools for the fall semester. Images: BUSD

The day will begin with a health screening, there will be separate entrance points for students and staff, trained parent volunteers will be on hand to enforce the new processes, including enforcing 6-foot distancing in entry lines.

These changes will be paired with daily use of cloth face coverings, face shields, temperature screening, physical distancing and limited cohort sizes.

Anyone coming to a school building will be expected to have monitored themselves for COVID-19 symptoms beforehand and stay home if they feel sick, and all students aged kindergarten and above are required to wear face coverings. Previous guidance from Alameda County only required mask use for students aged 12 and above, but they have updated this information in their most recent guidance.

Staff will be given face coverings and optional face shields, and hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and gloves will be available in classrooms. There will be isolation areas on campus to quarantine before returning home if anyone exhibits symptoms.

There will be no assemblies, large gatherings, field trips, school or classroom visitors in the upcoming school year, and all play structures will be closed, but the district will make modifications to facilities that require shared use. All elementary school classroom sinks will be replaced with touch-less faucets by December, the district says, and it’s exploring the possibility of replacing drinking fountains and sinks on all campuses, and obtaining portable air filters for classrooms without windows.

Inside bubble groups, social distancing rules will be relaxed. Students will be outside with their teachers as much as possible, and each bubble group will be assigned a yard location. The school day will also be shorter to allow teachers time to prepare for the following day, as the district will no longer be providing preparation periods during the school day.

With current plans, all learning for secondary education will be online and a portion of the week will be set aside for in-person clubs, advisory, athletics and career technical education. Each student is allowed to be a part of one bubble group for these activities. This could evolve to include more on-campus learning, however. In one example schedule approved by Alameda County, older students would take three classes per semester, and attend school four days a week in a “Group A” and “Group B” arrangement. This would likely involve one virtual check-in a week, social distancing, spaced-apart desks and mask use. In BUSD’s update on Wednesday, it also said students in middle and high schools could be divided into groups that attend school two days per week, as well as online instruction with teachers and independent work three days a week.

If on-campus models move forward for elementary and secondary Berkeley schools, special education students with Individualized Education Program plans will receive priority for transportation – where capacity would be cut down about 80%. BUSD plans to send out forms for transportation requests in the next week, and hopes to protect its busing program through the next year of hybrid learning.

“Transportation is among a short list of very difficult topics for us,” Stephens said.

To avoid exacerbating existing disparities among special-education students, and other students who face disparate learning outcomes, the district is also working on improving its hybrid learning plan to promote social-emotional learning, and use on-campus time to promote socializations, friendship and relaxation. These opportunities will be a “deliberate part of the design” for next year, Stephens said, along with funding streams like the new Equity Fund, which could provide quick-response resources for mental-health support, technology support, tutoring and other equity-related issues.

The district is also making changes based on what worked for students — and what didn’t — during the whole last quarter of distance learning. This includes a more predictable calendar, more online interaction with teachers and students and clearer learning goals.

“There were some elements of last quarter’s learning that came to feel confusing, like the pass-no-pass system, and … generally a confusion about whether attendance was required or not,” Stephens said. He will propose at the board’s next meeting that BUSD go back to a letter-grade system, and the California Department of Education has determined that attendance is mandatory, as well as attendance-taking in classrooms.

While the district plans to provide resources on where to get tested and expand access to test sites, part of the responsibility will fall on families and staff.

Information going to community this week

BUSD Board
The BUSD Board during its July 1 meeting, discussed plans for the Fall 2020 school year. Image: Supriya Yelimeli

This week, BUSD will share guidance on the new plan with community members and send out an initial enrollment form for K-12 parents and caregivers to opt in to distance learning. There are currently three distance learning options for students: Distance Learning Academy, which is fully remote, the hybrid model and the possibility for students to enroll in independent study.

In a survey the district put out in June, about 38% of of families and 43% of staff said they were “probably not comfortable” or “definitely not comfortable” returning to in-person instruction in the fall.

The current plan hasn’t been formally approved, but it does outline BUSD’s current goals for next year. The district is meeting throughout July for board meetings and is continuing to discuss changes and modifications with city Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez. The latest plans will be presented in a special BUSD meeting on July 15.

This story was updated after publication to clarify some of the district’s proposed back-to-school plans, which are still in development, and are dependent on pandemic restrictions.

Supriya Yelimeli

Supriya Yelimeli joined the Berkeleyside staff as a general assignment reporter in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and has written for...

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  1. Do you have a link to one of those studies for us to review? So far I have only seen opinion pieces or one single really methodologically atrocious “study” that used cell phone data to try to prove a point that the evidence didn’t support.

  2. From the article:
    The decision comes despite the fact that, as the Secretary of Education Kevin Yeung remarked, “there has not been any confirmed cases of infection at schools, which reflects the good work of our schools.”

  3. Ok so lets put up tents on the football field and BHS courtyard and do outdoor learning…Because the experts are sure it’s safe right?

  4. No one else wants to say it because it’s not true. Evidently that doesn’t stop you, however.

  5. exactly! Berkeley style. Scream loud enough and you get your way even if it is against what the majority of the people want.

  6. Lots of things we need. and lots of dreams.
    Hell will freezes over before there is a livable stipend payed to parents.
    I need a solution in 4 weeks not in a 100 years.

  7. I don’t get it.
    There should be a riot. There should be demonstrations in Sacramento asking for $ to fund more teachers to have smaller classes and outside teaching etc… instead nothing…. silence.

    No, instead yet again the young families get to carry the entire load while the well off prop 13ers tell us what to do and we should be considered of our neighbors etc..
    Noone is considerate of the families here! noone has their well being in mind! The working families have to pay for everything with money and now with their children health and well being. How can the liberals be so family-unfriendly.
    Of course the wealthy stay at home Moms and homeschooling antivaxers where the dads have fancy programmer jobs or family money shame the others who actually have to work for living.

  8. There’s an image that shows a “Sample” schedule, suggesting that if a kid is non-intervention, she will be in Group A and thus have class on Monday and Tuesday. Does anyone know how likely this is? Can I assume that two non-intervention kids will have the same days on-campus…and thus off-campus (because what I’m really trying to do is establish a childcare bubble for the other days!).

  9. When Trump wins in November will Berkeley High School organize another anti Trump protest? Will that be okay to assemble all of those kids together but not have in-person classes yep that’s the hypocrisy I know in Berkeley.

  10. Not true–“working age” is through age 65. With lots of late Boomers, including many teachers, born ’55-’60 and just now approaching retirement.

  11. This has been studied by real epidemiologists, and they say no. The protests were outdoors, where transmission is far lower, and masks worn with the motive of concealing the identity of rioters and vandals work practically as well as those worn for filtration.

  12. The point, reinforced by the suit, is that the BUSD has a long record of caring far more about PC virtue signalling than the health and welfare of its students. It won’t get in-person safety *or* online teaching right.

  13. Have a feeling Berkeley will keep students out of school until 2021…

    We don’t have any real leadership…just people with an agenda.

    Remember this will last past the election 2020, so we got many more months of the games.

  14. And the article completely omits the pressure put on BUSD by the teachers union. They are the main obstacle to having longer days.

    The proposal is 2 in-person days a week, lasting 4 hours each day. They can only teach for 4 hours, because they need all that extra time to prepare…

    We voted in their raises, and now the teachers union is failing the students of Berkeley. Pathetic!

  15. Covid-19 is more infectious than the flu but much less deadly among children. Nobody was suing schools if their kids got the flu before the vaccine was widely available so I just don’t buy it. Especially since the flu vaccine is usually only about 40% to 50% effective.

  16. And you were happy with all the classrooms? Awesome.
    Some of the worst behavior, of course, is at BHS: fights in the hallways, teachers showing the same video 5 days in a row….
    Never knew the middle schools had “room parents” where one would be present everyday -did see drug dealing going on -and fights. The elementary school our kids attended s**ked (yes- one of us was there most days for some portion of the day…) fights, absent teachers, etc., and again, “room parents” were not welcome except when the teacher needed something.

    To be fair, I also met some of the most devoted human beings/excellent teachers at all three school sites, but it was inconsistent at best. Not reliable for “structure”.

  17. Yea Trump is somehow supposed to provide guidance to those who will never follow his advice. Good one.

  18. I will say what no one else wants to say the rates have skyrocketed because of protesting.

  19. We can’t safely reopen schools in a month when we have not flattened the curve. This pandemic and our community’s failure to get it under control is not BUSD’s fault.
    We need to provide parents a stipend to stay home until schools can safely reopen.

  20. Same here but one parent was home providing structure…Dad worked two jobs to provide for the family.

  21. Or you have 9th grade at west campus 10th grade at franklin and 11/12 at BHS the majority of 12 graders cut classes at BHS anyway so they aren’t an issue, you could also have the seniors teachers teach outdoor classes at provo park most of the students are there all day anyway.

  22. Very easy solution the kids stay put and the teachers move from site to site…Example bhs has science on monday/ Thurs Franklin has science on tues/ friday etc etc etc.

  23. Over a year vs 3+ months…. great argument. 98 more lives lost in the last day, btw….
    And, again, morbidity from this disease is much worse than “flu”. This is. not. the flu.

  24. The last sentence is the sticking point.

    All the wonderful theory etc…looks great in the ivory tower, looks good on paper. But the parents will loose their jobs, end up on the street, get evicted etc…
    Please stop trying to sell this crap to us! It wont work without childcare. As long as this is not solved any further discussion is pointless.

    mission accomplished we have a great online curriculum then but kids wont have a place to live any more. Well done BUSD, well done academics in your ivory towers, well done state leadership.

  25. I know a teacher’s aide who investigated Berkeley High, discovered it needed 20 “school safety aides” to even pretend to maintain order, and moved to Albany just so her kid could go to Albany High instead.

  26. I can get behind shifts, but I still think parents need some kind of stipend to be able to stay home when needed. Shifts don’t solve everything – not all jobs have flexible schedules and single parents who work outside the home would still need to make impossible choices.

  27. I have been room parent or have been involved in EVERY one of my kids classes until they wouldn’t let us any longer (bhs)

  28. California just set a new daily record for cases. In the past 14 days Alameda Co averaged 119 cases per 100,000 residents and climbing. Yes, if our rates get as low as Europe – by all means, open the schools.
    Side note: I don’t disagree that education in Europe is better than in the States.

  29. Especially when a disease this contagious requires the population to have 90+% immunity, by vaccination or infection, before herd immunity starts to be really effective and bring spreading to a halt. This one’s almost as bad as measles, i.e. you can get it just from breathing in the same room.

  30. I know that students are required to be vaccinated to go to schools (including private and parochial), and otherwise be home-schooled. I was referring to the number of anti-vaxxers among Berkeley teachers and staff, and the population at large, endangering everyone else.

  31. 1) There’s an annual vaccine for the flu, and if the parent failed to get the kid vaccinated, it’s their fault right there. 2) If the parent can prove gross negligence in dealing with the much higher infectiousness of this virus. Since this is BUSD, #2 would be easy.

  32. Just add our bottom ranking in schools to our bottom ranking in pretty much everything else. Hard to improve things though when a sizable fraction of the population thinks we are the best at all those things. I feel like educating those people about the real stature of the US is like educating Berkeley residents about city finances, lack of police brutality, property crime rates, etc. People just have the wrong conception and it seemingly is unfixable. Willful self delusion one might call it.

  33. A major Title IX lawsuit is pending against BUSD, for gross negligence in failing to protect girls from harassment, assault, attempted rape etc on campuses. BUSD will lose big-time and have to pay millions. Not to mention the PR and PC embarrassment when the girls testify. If we’re lucky, there’ll also be a court order banning the insane Berkeley version of Restorative Justice.
    Nobody’s suing over a COVID-19 case yet, but the year is still young and there are so many ways BUSD will screw up.

  34. There were a few reasonable alternatives–I agree we need a lot more sensible grownups to run for School Board. Even though it’s not a very rewarding position and you catch it from all sides, just like the dedicated teachers do.

  35. The west campus work is being done so they can relocate Oxford elementary there when schools reopen which presumably would be after the winter break.

  36. Our [personal] reality: one parent worked nights, weekends. Sometimes you just have to make it work.

  37. you keep saying that and it’s untrue. that is not the mortality rate for working age adults who contract the virus.

  38. How am I the one fear mongering, when I simply explained to Doug how we will be safe with a vax? Maybe find a real reason to try and pick a fight with me?

  39. Scared people make stupid votes and the city is capitalizing on that as much as possible. All these directives, closures, lack of information and chaos coming out of City Hall are designed to make us dumb and afraid.

  40. The Covid-19 mortality rate for working age adults is very similar to the seasonal flu, around 0.04%

    How many people do you know who stop working and keep their children home every time it’s flu season?

  41. We live in a time when two incomes are a requirement to live in Berkeley. The only households I know of with only one working parent are ones where the husband works at an extremely high level at an elite tech or finance company and makes $350k+

  42. Parents can’t sue the school if their children get the flu and die. Why would this be any different?

  43. And what is with younger kids who cant be left alone. Your teenager can be home all day learning on the computer great if he/she is able to.

    What about 8 year old’s who cant? The parents need to quit their jobs and end up on the street because they cant pay mortgage and rent any longer.

  44. so make in person teaching optional and make it hybrid class. Problem solved. Also i dont think there are any lawsuits. Does anyone know of any lawsuits against anyone for this reason?

  45. And how exactly is this going to help me in fall? How exactly can this keep me employed while I have to watch my children in-front of a computer?
    We need childcare and school in a month when school starts not fancy politics and great words.

  46. Where are they going to get all those test kits, and the labs to run them in?? Arizona is begging for more tests, largely to no avail.

  47. It’s safe for the kids right now. Despite what’s being implied in the scare stories from the media this virus isn’t a big deal for kids. The Covid-19 mortality rate among school aged children is much less than the seasonal flu.

  48. “herd immunity” -it’s how these fools [aka anti vaxxers] get away with their stupid arguments, but it’s such a fragile concept with a highly contagious disease.

  49. To put that into perspective, in Texas more than 11,000 people died from flu and its complications during the 2017-18 flu season. So far just over 2,000 have died from Covid-19.

  50. How do you deal with a finite number of teachers? Have isolated pods of students? Just curious.

    Also, BHS students have different teachers/classes for each subject….?

  51. Schools completely reopened in Germany and Denmark and they haven’t seen a spike in cases or deaths. Why is it that Europe is able to get it right with their school systems on so many different levels while America’s schools constantly rank at the bottom of the list of first world nations?

  52. Plenty of suggestions have been posted, the one that makes the most sense is dividing the BHS students up between BHS, West Campus, and the adult school formally known as Franklin.

  53. They ARE forced to, kids have to be current on vaccines to attend public schools…please stop fear mongering.

  54. I was surprised in the recent BUSD communications that they don’t seem to grasp the fact that they need to both 1) Provide competent distance learning and 2) Provide childcare options

    The scarce resource now is (indoor) classroom time. So optimize for providing #1 and #2 with less of it.

    I don’t think BUSD has grasped that it needs to train teachers to be good distance learning teachers. Some were great, others less so, in the recent crash course called Spring 2020. BUSD will need some internal training where the teachers who excel at distance learning teach the others how to improve.

  55. Once again we live in a different time, a Time where nannies and teachers raise the children not the parents.

  56. The CDC gives guidelines but it’s up to the individual School District and states to make the final decision. We are a collective of states we don’t have a king.

  57. Are we sure schools are not allowed to reopen under current guidelines? It seems like other districts in Alameda County are acting like they can reopen. From the County Health Officer, “Based on the current critical indicators the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) is monitoring, Alameda County schools can and should plan for in-person instruction starting with summer
    school and moving into the regular school year this fall.”

  58. So if the CDC said everyone go back to school you would be okay with that? Yeah I didn’t think so.

  59. BUSD can’t even manage zoom, you think they can handle a real LMS? The teachers don’t even have ELMO projectors. I offered to buy one for my daughter’s middle school teacher after I saw the awkward way they were trying to run the math lessons but was told it wasn’t fair.

  60. check out the John Paulson letter to Spence school of Manhattan in the Daily Mail… good read

  61. Every time I check the ballot there is always the same characters with the same woke agenda and we have zero choice.. very sad considering the elite university in our town..

  62. There were kids I know in son’s classes that literally never attended any classes or “office hours” or did any assignments and of course passed. One of them got really good at GTA, hopefully he has a future as a professional gamer.

  63. which is why one of my kid’s best teachers has her kids in the San Ramon district.. quite telling as she could have bought a house here instead and saved the commute.

  64. “You idiots like to talk about equity.”

    As in the equity in your property tanking as a result of the silly decisions made.

  65. God forbid we should learn anything from other countries. The plan that has worked in the most successful ones is massive and frequent testing, very efficient contact tracing, and citizens who follow masking, isolation and quarantine orders. Some of them are back to normal operations already. They’ll also eagerly get vaccinated, when possible. Huge chunks of the US population have declared that they’d rather die than do those things.

  66. You might get a mortality rate that low by excluding anyone over 40 or with any pre-existing condition like obesity (half the population right there), smoking, COPD, heart disease, etc from your definition of “healthy communities.” In the real world, including all those old folks living with grandchildren, it’s more like 0.5% in the best-case countries. That certainly won’t include the US, long as Trump is around and the Senate is controlled by a certain anti-science party. If we open everything up and half of Berkeley’s population gets infected before vaccination, that’d be a minimum of 300 deaths, but probably several times that. At CA’s current death rate of 2.3%, 1400. You first.
    It’s true that it’s only somewhat more deadly than the flu, and mostly in the elderly with a pre-existing condition. But it’s far more infectious, maybe 2nd only to measles, and we have vaccines for the flu.

  67. But it is true. Covid deaths or even serious outcomes are virtually non-existent in school aged children without preexisting conditions per the CDC data. It’s concordant with a bad, but not really bad, flu year. As I said, those with preexisting can and should continue with remote learning. Yes, I do think it’s OK for teachers to expose themselves with proper precautions. It’s no more callous than nurses and garbage collectors and anyone else who has a job that requires this. BUSD does not exist to employ teachers and administrators, it exists to educate children. It often seems like they forget this.

  68. Nope. The CDC is supposed to be providing guidelines; it’s a National Public Health Emergency.

    Apparently DJT thinks he can threaten all school districts into doing what would look best for him…

  69. We would never have depended on school for our kids’ “structure” –that would have been a losing cause with so many kids at their school acting out and creating all kinds of mayhem. Glad apparently [some] others have had a better experience.
    When the time comes, highly recommend parents take the time to drop in during school hours and see what really goes on during the school day….

  70. Spread the BHS kids out between BHS, West campus, and the Berkeley Adult school.

  71. Oh Boy…The incompetence withing BUSD is utterly shocking. Judy Appel please leave your post now!

  72. That is not an example of democracy because the 62% should get their way. This is bully culture where the loudest 38% gets their way. It really is simple if families are not comfortable with in person learning keep your kids home and do study at home. Let the rest get on with their lives.

  73. Those other countries are working hard to keep the virus in check where as we don’t give a you know what. California just set a new daily record for cases. In the past 14 days Alameda Co have averaged 108 cases per 100,000 residents. Yes, if our rates get as low as Europe and China – by all means, open the schools.
    From the Science Mag article: “But opening safely, experts agree, isn’t just about the adjustments a school makes. It’s also about how much virus is circulating in the community, which affects the likelihood that students and staff will bring COVID-19 into their classrooms.”

  74. Yes unfortunately our society is now such where both parents in a two parent household are working, not that it is a bad thing but since women’s rights movement has been around the middle class has suffered, wages have gone down and now it takes two incomes to maintain a household where before the mother typically stayed home and provided structure. It is just a different world, also in many lower social economic or single parent households the only structure a child gets is at his or her school. Not great but reality…

  75. Almost every school-age child in the world gets structure from school, I’m not sure what your point is?

  76. Every state has different conditions it should not be controlled at the federal level. We are the United STATES of America.

  77. The 2020 election, with whatever increased taxes the City wants to impose on us this year, will be an important bellweather for what’s going on with the Berkeley voting public. Specifically, because the vast majority of UC Berkeley students won’t be here to skew the vote with no concern for the non-stop increasing financial burdent to the ever shrinking middle class in Berkeley. Too bad we don’t have a viable candidate running for mayor, this would be the best chance we have to vote out Jesse Arreguin.

  78. ” …no reason to think kids are any safer at home than school” – simply and obviously not true.
    So…you think it’s OK for our teachers to expose themselves day in, day out to the risk of exposure to Covid? Nope. There’s much more risk in a classroom than in most adult work environments: being in a closed classroom with several kids who are obviously not going to follow social safety rules (masks, frequent hand washing, social distancing) with whom teachers will have to interact one on one, touch several times a day, and handle various goopey articles — ick.
    Pretty callous viewpoint. BTW, It was stated over and over again that the world is flat. Didn’t make it true. Nor does stating kids aren’t really at risk make it true…

  79. BUSD parents: check your Promotions folder for this superintendent email if you have Gmail.

  80. Take a moment and imagine what kind of lawsuits BUSD would be facing if they thumbed their noses at State and County guidelines, sent everybody back to school and then somebody died. I would much rather that kids are sent back to school full time. But that opportunity passed us by as a nation when the Feds provided ZERO leadership and guidance over the past three months and the pandemic rages even stronger than before. You can all rant against BUSD all you want, but the organization needs to cover itself legally. If you want to get mad, get mad at the State and Local decisions that are being used as guidelines for the districts. And the total abject failure of leadership at the Federal level.

  81. it’ll be safe enough for you *if* you are able to get a vaccine yourself. It will hurt those who cannot for legitimate medical reasons though.

  82. some of them barely logged on (I don’t know about ‘most’) because attendance was not being tracked and everyone knew it. Attendance will now be tracked and required. How would you pay for full on campus attendance given the social distancing requirements? {This comment has been moderated}

  83. UCB’s IGI lab has lots of so-far-unused testing capacity, and offers it free to agencies. Even though BUSD can’t solve any problem, it has a severe case of NIH (Not Invented Here, not National Institutes of Health) when any outside source tries to tell it how to solve its severe problems.

  84. That digital upbringing has also left far too many kids with 20-second attention spans, and expecting to be passively entertained at all times. Lacking the initiative to think and solve problems on their own.

  85. The subject here is the 8/20-5/21 school year and just in Berkeley. No matter what happens in the 11/20 national election, the feds are not going to be of much help until the *next* school year. These are local problems, many of them self-inflicted and many with fairly obvious local solutions.

  86. Teenage school children need structure EVERYDAY! NOT some days or a few hours a day. The kids need to be in school or logged in for 7 hours a day ANYTHING less is a failure on the part of the school board and they should be in jail! BHS teachers failed the students, most of them barely logged in themselves so how do you expect the students to be engaged?

  87. Berkeley voters had their chances in the last 2 elections (covering every School Board seat), and knew what they’re like. I and many others warned them repeatedly.

  88. It should be obvious, but a nonnegotiable precondition of “getting back to normal” is that families need a normal to return to as well. But as soon as you express this, the conversation quickly gets clouded with tangential and irrelevant arguments that would get you kicked off any school debate team.

    “But we don’t even know if it’s safe to send kids back to school,” is absolutely correct, but it’s not the central issue here. The sadder flip side — the friend who told me that if their school reopens, her children are going back whether it’s safe or not because she cannot afford to not work — edges closer…

  89. Local school problems have little to do with the feds’ incompetence, and everything to do with the total incompetence of BUSD and the Public Health Dept.

  90. This is why BUSD needs to start taking online attendance, and report truancy to parents at first, and the Brain Police if it continues. Separating students into morning and afternoon shifts, instead of alternate weekdays, would make it much easier to coordinate their schedules with their parents’.

  91. BUSD has “insufficient help” because of its decades-long policy of hiring PC idiots instead of competent administrators and teachers. And because Berkeley voters keep electing PC idiots to the School Board. Thanks to those same voters, BUSD gets more property tax money than any other regional district, and wastes more of it. Most other nearby districts have done online teaching much better.

  92. I think the article was written too early based on incomplete information. IMO they should have held back and checked more with BUSD about the finality of plans because this has done nothing but cause community confusion.

  93. Why would you believe BUSD, with its unbroken record of incompetence, secrecy and worse, over Berkeleyside?

  94. does Berkeleyside disagree that these were inaccuracies? This article was originally fairly confusing with statements (which remain) that “secondary education will be online”. Was this because this is what BUSD said two days ago, and they changed their stance? Or was this article written too early? At any rate, it absolutely caused a lot of confusion in the community.

  95. This 1000 times. Woke Mafia is gold, Bside should be selling t-shirts and coffee mugs with quotes like this on them.

  96. Icymi, the twin issue to access is having someone at home with the kids. Another ‘excuse’ if that’s what you call it.

  97. There’s no reason to think kids are any safer at home than school and, as has been stated over and over, kids aren’t really at risk from Covid-19. Those that are at risk or can’t be kept away from those in their families that are should have a remote learning option. There are lots of people who have to expose themselves to this risk for work, I don’t think teachers are special in this regard.

  98. We have been in communication with BUSD and have addressed what they say is inaccurate. As you can imagine, the district’s plans are a work in progress because of the magnitude of work needed to re-open schools safely, and all the uncertainty about COVID-19 and related restrictions, so what we reported yesterday before they put out guidelines today was based on the information we had at that point.

  99. The countries that you mentioned have citizens that realize one must wear a mask when leaving home for the general good. We have people here who refuse to wear masks, either out of ignorance, selfishness or the belief that it marks one as a – dare we say the word – “liberal”.

  100. The risk of child-to-adult transmission seems low, from what I have seen. Not impossible, but low. Having kids locked inside for another six months has its own health risks, not to mention that it implies that working parents are somehow working (often outside the home) and teaching and caregiving all at the same time, which is really hard to do.I think the idea of abstinence (i.e. isolating for the next six-12 months) isn’t feasible. We need a plan that will allow us to keep our risk level low but also have more contact with the world.

  101. I think it’s unfair to pin the schools against working families (Trump is doing a great job of divide-and-conquer and we’re falling in the trap and playing his game). We should all (schools and families) band together and ask for outside support for families and working parents from state/feds. I would like parents to be supported and be able to stay home and not have to make impossible choices.
    But our priorities are all screwed up in this country. We have gazillions to bail out Delta and Trump’s extended relations, but nothing to subsidize parents so they can stay home until schools can safely reopen. And I don’t think they can safely reopen for a while… Even if kids don’t get sick, teachers and staff will. And then what? Kids that were in contact will be sent home and parents will have to figure something out in the meantime. And when kids go back, there will be no guarantee that it won’t happen again and start the cycle all over again. We need consistent, reliable help for working families until we can guarantee a safe, reliable school re-opening… likely until a vaccine widely available for kids and staff alike.

  102. Except it’s not Trump’s fault what we are dealing with here is incompetence on the part of the school district.

  103. “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.”

    here: https://www.berkeleyschools.net/2020/07/important-information-about-fall-2020-informacion-importante-acerca-del-otono-2020/

  104. The language we used may have been a little confusing because the whole re-opening plan is a work in progress and will continue to be developed over coming weeks. Our reporting was based on the information that was available at the time. After BUSD got in touch today to say some of what we had written did not accurately reflect their proposed plans we made some clarifications and linked to the notice the district sent out today.

  105. You may be right. There is much research on the effects of video and remote learning, going back to the early days of Children’s Television Workshop, etc. However, our kids today – of all ages – are adept at taking in so much via digital means. The whole digital convergence has left us with radio, music, talk, video content all pouring in via the Internet through portals like social media, YouTube, the Web, etc.

    I think it boils down to time and engagement. A teacher in a classroom has to work on the spot like a stage performer to engage their audience’s attention. Teaching online? Maybe not so much.

    I have personally seen great success with instruction delivered via synchronous regular live video and screensharing – just something like Zoom – combined with a robust online learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard, Moodle, or Canvas.

    I say all of the above is on the shoulders of the teachers and school administrators.

    Now, how working parents are supposed to manage their children’s supervision if they are not physically in a classroom, well that is a real challenge…

  106. Whatever. Go for the big fish and save your fight with Judy for sunnier times.

  107. Small time infighting with your neighbors is fine during regular times, but step it up and refocus on the national scene. The pandemic demands it of us.

  108. You are rightfully upset I am certain, but the target of your anger is misdirected. Other nations have demonstrated the way to maintain social stability through this pandemic. The failed federal leadership here have demonstrated nothing but greed and indifference in their response to the pandemic. Stop squabbling with your neighbors struggling to do the right thing in the face of this unprecedented pandemic. Refocus your anger on the conservative and neoliberal bloodsuckers enjoying the lucky windfall the wealthy currently have, now able to buy up everyone else’s equity and resources for pennies on the dollar. Mnuchin was not kidding when he said this is a great time for investors.

  109. yep. He has now threatened to “cut off funding” if schools don’t reopen. What a guy –on the day Texas hit 10K new daily cases.
    Has anyone asked teachers how they feel about being exposed to Covid every day?

  110. I am the parent of a student who will be entering his senior year at BHS next month. Given the uncertainty related to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, I want to state my unwavering support for continued distance learning at the start of the school year. I would gladly volunteer my time to share my experience as an online instructor.

    As an instructor at institutions of higher education for more than twenty years, I know that teaching online can be a successful primary approach to learning. As a concerned parent, I do not want to see the limited resources of BUSD squandered on the expensive proposition of re-opening schools for any face-to-face instruction. As the virus spreads and appears to be running out-of-control through our communities, the uncertainty regarding any opening whatsoever should be enough for the leaders at BUSD to commit to an online-only reopening of BHS on August 17th – some six weeks from now. The uncontrolled variables at play are well beyond the control of BUSD.

    I hope the BUSD administration and board do not succumb to the pressures being put forth by the failed federal leadership and the misguided hopes of local community members blind to the serious – likely fatal for some – ramifications of a reopening amidst the unchecked growth of the virus.

    The financial impact on the school district of blowing big bucks on steps necessary to safe reopening, followed simply by a few students testing positive after attendance at school, will result in chaos as the district scrambles to shut down and re-evaluate. Watch this now same stumbling train wreck unfolding with the greedy owners of professional sports teams trying to coerce their players into endangering the lives of themselves and their families. Players are wisely opting out, or showing up and getting infected, thereby causing the postponement of the team’s reopening. SF Giants Summer Camp just closed due to multiple positive test results coming back. Try this at BHS and watch everything devolve into chaos and confusion.

    Get real, use the next six weeks to establish requirements and provide training and content production resources to teachers so they can actualize real functioning online education. District needs to enlist an army of content production folks to follow instructor guidance and build real online classes. There needs to be a required live weekly (or more frequent) lecture and Q&A provided for each class. There needs to be mandatory online discussion forums for students as well as required weekly homework. Free software tools are there for this if the person power is there to build this.

  111. Your mortality rate data is false. The medical community agrees that there is no way to currently determine a fixed mortality rate for this disease. And your use of the false number is distracting from the facts becoming discovered about the true impact of this virus on the brain and multiple organs in the body. Community spread is happening from asymptomatic carriers and other infected folks who are not experiencing serious symptoms. So kids will be agents of spread to elderly relatives. There is a public health approach to this pandemic that our failed federal leaders refuse to implement. You sound like a lost Republican looking away from the facts. Grow up.

  112. Brent Stephens just wrote: “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.”

    Tighten it up, Berkeleyside!

  113. Where do you get your numbers? Also, please define “healthy communities.” Granted we’re in the middle of this pandemic and much is still unknown, but I’m not seeing anything like the low mortality you cite. Johns Hopkins cites current mortality rate of 4.4% in the US, with a range of 0.9% (Saudi Arabia) to 15.4% (UK). https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality

  114. I think the block schedule in-person concept is the plan in the case that we move forward in re-opening, but with the current rate of cases and our paused phase of reopening, if school started tomorrow, it would be distance learning for the high school.

  115. The hard part is having kids stay home when parents have to work to make rent – mom is a nurse and dad works at the grocery store.

  116. I think it’s unfair to pin the schools against working families. We should all (school and families) rally for outside support for families and working parents from state/feds. I would like parents to be supported and be able to stay home and not have to make the impossible choices you point to.
    But our priorities are all screwed up in this country. We have gazillions to bail out Delta and Trump’s extended relations, but nothing to subsidize parents so they can stay home until schools can safely reopen.

  117. California does have a high infection rate but the Bay Area is large enough that we should just cut off travel to/from SoCal. That probably sounds crazy but the Bay Area is more populous than many countries including ones that have succeeded through closing borders, like New Zealand.

    In general we should be taking a dim view of all non-essential long-distance travel, in or out of state, in or out of the country.

  118. This is so sad, and the vitriol of some comments here is deeply disturbing. It’s pointless and unfair to rant against BUSD which is struggling to deal with an impossible situation with insufficient help.

    Blame Trump if you feel like ranting. His response to the Coronavirus is abysmal in every possible way. Better practices in several Asian and European nations could have served as models. It didn’t have to be this way.

  119. UC San Diego also plans repeat testing of the entire campus community so it can reopen. They got million dollar grant and will use campus labs to do it.

    Unfortunately our society values private solutions over community good. This is growing ever more true in the Bay Area, where a libertarian streak has taken deep hold over the past few decades, in parallel with the accumulation of enormous wealth in a very few hands. Our electorate and politicians are too afraid the rich guys to make them share the wealth.

  120. We are aware of this PS note that went out with BUSD’s notice today and have addressed its concerns about what it terms inaccuracies in our story.

  121. Thank you for saying this, its so obvious I can’t believe more people haven’t said the same.

  122. Actually EB enrollment for next year has plummeted due to coronavirus, a lot of people don’t want to pay $30k for partial online learning, shortened school days, and no after school care.

  123. Mass murder? Among healthy communities the mortality rate for Covid-19 is 0.04% which is in line with the seasonal flu.

    Children who live in households with immunocompromised individuals can home school, if neccessary, but a mortality rate that low for a virus that kills 0.000001% of K-12 aged children isn’t a significant enough threat to keep a vital part of our social structure shut down.

  124. Maybe just announce a suggested curriculum for Kahn Academy by grade level and let parents monitor the results. Nothing happened of ANY educational value last semester. Or, so long as teachers want to continue being employed, have online classes like a proper day. Just pretend nothing has changed. If kids don’t behave remove them from the class. I don’t see how this is hard.

  125. I can’t tell you how many young and energetic teachers we have seen come and go through BUSD in our time there. They get a year or two and then no room for permanent employment. Let’s clear the decks of the boomers and bring in some young teachers that are more likely to get killed by lightning then by covid.

  126. Are you guys INSANE!!! Are you guys payed by Trump or someone to increase the rate of homeless in Berkeley?
    So tell me BUSD how are working parents supposed to do that? How is someone with a job supposed to supervise their kids at home ? And then you threaten people saying you are enforcing attendance etc…!! We are already in an economical crisis why are you making it worse for parents?

    You make us choose between food on the table and our children’s education and safety. YOU GUYS SUCK YOU $(%*#)!
    Don tell us this is because of COVID this is politics! The @($*$ Leadership in Sacramento cut your funding and this is your way to react instead of you raising hell to get your $ back.
    You are all just betting on the fact that parents are too busy to riot and protest because we need to care for our children and have responsibilities. Guess what ? You are right we cant protest, riot, etc. so we have no voice.

    Here is my prediction of what will happen: Families will just interact outside of school in an uncontrolled and unsafe way go to playgrounds and will do anything to keep the kids entertained while they alternate working in some way. Guess what? The virus will spread worse than in school because it will be uncontrolled.
    You cant put people infront of impossible choices and expect them to do what is good for the community. They wont. They will do what ever it takes to survive.

    BUSD outsources the risk to the whole community and makes it uncontrolled. Well done guys well done!! Thank you!!

  127. Exactly or hire Nanny’s.
    Again, Berkeley does nothing for working families who make an honest living with work!
    The homeless and criminals get housing and free mental and other health services and the rich don’t need to deal with this BS.
    Families where bot parents have to work to pay for all this BS get left alone yet again.

    So BUSD tell me are you paying my rent or mortgage when I have to quit my job to supervise the kids at home in-front of the computer?

  128. I assume you meant to say 38% have zoom education.

    But am with you 62% now have to do what 38% wants. This is how democracy works in Berkeley.
    It also tells you that 38% of the parents are either wealthy enough that one parent does not need to work or have otherwise help from family members.

  129. This distance learning will never work for anyone below highschool and even then its questionable.
    No not independent wealthy parent can quit work to supervise kids at home and making the choice between food on the table and learning is impossible.

  130. We should have set up triage and testing capacity the moment we saw China (publicly) racing to build a hospital in 10 days time. We should have done a lot of things. That ship has sailed. There are no good options now, but one needs to count the tragedy of further lockdowns. While we all love to think subsidies and Fed money printing can go on forever, it cannot and will not. At some point global productivity will matter. How many people will die globally with each sustained drop in global gdp? What are the knock on health effects? No schools, no economy. Trump is an idiot, but a broken clock can be right twice a

  131. Amen on your call for Appel to leave the board immediately. She is so arrogant to stick around to define new school culture when she is leaving. Go now, Judy.

  132. And twice on Tuesdays. In fact, we should be surrendering all our commercial sidewalks and streets to the businesses behind them for retail and services. It’s not going to rain until November. We have less than five months to preserve our tax base, and the families who make it go.

    Throw the friggin’ codes out the window and get Berkeley outside, STAT!

  133. BUSD school board members need to step down IMMEDIATELY the new Superintendent also! Make room for someone who can make decisions that work! Thank GOD Judy Appel is leaving TOO BAD it’s not effective immediately!

  134. Don’t look for any help from the feds (have you noticed who the Prez and Sec’y of Education are?) or the city’s Public Health Dept.

    Those “free” tests are paid for by UCB (at the city’s site in W Berkeley) and the state (at the one on Oregon near MLK).

    Put your money on #2. K-12 students very rarely get very sick (although they can spread it to grandma), but many teachers are boomer-age and so high-risk.

  135. Because 1) California has one of the highest infection rates in the US, and it’s been accelerating, and 2) many Americans will lie to the government about a life-or-death health matter just for their convenience. Especially the ambulatory paranoid schizophrenics and the anti-vaxxers. Almost all those other countries are also doing far more testing and better contact tracing, the only 2 things that’ll really detect and contain outbreaks ’til the first vaccine arrives.

  136. Black Pine was the first school to close, before public schools closed. Having private schools doesn’t guarantee in-person class, it probably just gets you a better distance learning curriculum.

  137. While I’m glad they are developing plans for multiple contingencies, I would like to hear more about what they will be using to evaluate the efficacy of said plans. How will they be monitoring student progress (a measure of how well the plans are working)? Grades are all but meaningless in middle school and what will they be based on for high school under these circumstances? Will each teacher be using the same criteria or just doing the best they can without guidance from the district? Elementary report cards are based on A LOT of information the teachers observe within the classrooms so I’m unclear on how that will occur. Clarity and transparency will be important with the caveat that (most) parents understand this is uncharted territory and it will be necessary to adapt as we (teachers, admin, students, and parents) learn how to navigate this new world.

  138. I’ve got an idea: why doesn’t Berkeley spend some money on residents and provide internet services for everyone? Maybe then distance learning would be feasible and fair… oh, and when there’s more than one kid in the family wanting to go online at the same time for school….??

  139. It is so hard to face up to this, especially after the sacrifices of the March through June sheltering effort, which so many locals treated seriously and sensibly and with good humor. But ours will be but one of thousands upon thousands of local tragedies if BUSD’s K-12 schools are rushed into in-person opening in the current viral environment.

    Donald Trump insisted today that he’s going to put federal pressure on school districts to open nationwide. To the extent he succeeds in doing this, the forced re-opening of schools is going to lead to a steady state of severe societal upheaval until Trump is forced from office.

    In the aggregate where people obey the re-opening order against their better judgment and established public health guidelines, hundreds of thousands will be sickened, thousands will die, and COVID will become endemic until a vaccine arrives.

    The scale of the tragedy could be staggering. In 2019, there were over 56 million K-12 students in the United States.


    Virtually all of these kids — our kids — live at home with family members of all ages. Restarting in the unchecked viral environment we now have, which will worsen through the summer, likely will lead to an unfathomable national catastrophe.

    I cannot imagine safely opening K-12 schools nationwide this fall without — at a barest minimum — a compulsory national lockdown starting immediately and continuing through August. Barring this (and knowing Trump won’t do this), a Wuhan/Italy-style California state lockdown that includes closing airports and borders and prohibiting all but essential in-state travel could possibly succeed in arresting COVID’s spread.

    This would give us a couple of months to ramp up a free (or at least reimbursable), on-demand, weekly testing system for all Californians, a contact tracing system, and an opportunity for medical and public health professionals to set up a triage system that safely and humanely separate the sick who do not require hospitalization from their family and cohabitators for a quarantine period (something the schools could be instrumental in carrying out). Weather is fair here in the fall, so non-ICU triage and quarantine can take place at stadiums, parks and other large outdoor facilities if need be.

    Absent all of this, knowing what we know, and seeing how other countries are handling school re-openings, the forced reopening of America’s K-12 schools by Trump with our current unchecked COVID community spread amounts to premeditated mass murder. We are staring tragedy in the face. We must face the scale of threat soberly, resolutely and with the health of our neighbors and kids foremost in our minds.

  140. Absolutely nothing worked for our Elementary aged students either. The “distance learning” was just a waste of time for everyone involved.

  141. Amen to this! It is unbelievable that construction is continuing on the expensive West Campus renovation based on unchanged pre-Covid-19 plans! BUSD is failing miserably on every front in this fight.

  142. 38% of parents not comfortable with in person school. Problem solved. 62% can have zoom education, and the rest of us can have in person social distanced education.

  143. One of the things that Harvard is doing for those on campus this fall, which includes all incoming freshmen, is testing every 3 days. With resources like UC Berkeley, perhaps this could be a goal for BUSD.

  144. What are the metrics that would qualify schools to be able to open, as per the Berkeley Reopening Roadmap?

    Also, why didn’t the superintendent and the district mention the roadmap before now? It’s clear our city won’t be at that level of reopening for quite some time. We could have been setting ourselves up for distance learning this whole time instead of wasting energy planning on an extremely improbable reopening.

  145. We are all in this together right? LOL hardly the rich are putting their kids in private schools..Black Pine Circle and Ecole Bilingue for example..

  146. Schools need double the financial support from the state and federal government. Smaller districts in rural areas with little coronavirus spread will be OK, but there is no way large populous districts will be able to manage this transition on their own.

    I just don’t see how it can work; the city of Berkeley is thankfully offering free tests, but the waits are weeks long both to get the test and to get results.

    When school starts up there will need to be continuous testing, results within 24 hours, available to all students and teachers. Cleaning staff and resources will need to double. With fewer students per class, more teachers will be needed. On site nurses for each campus.

    I just don’t see any way that this works without either 1. significant investment from outside the county and district OR 2. Consistent outbreaks, shutdowns, and some ongoing, accepted (?) level of student and teacher virus mortality

  147. BUSD get your crap together NOW!
    I will spell it out for you…Close the Adult school, spread out the Berkeley High kids between the Adult school, west Campus, and Berkeley high. If you still have too many kids for social distancing then you have to send all of the non Berkeley kids to their own home school districts. BUSD’s only obligation is to teach Berkeley kids, EVERYTHING and EVERYONE else is extra and not the responsibility of the Berkeley tax payers. BUSD ONCE AGAIN THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AND ONLY OBLIGATION! All other agenda’s and pet projects are out the window, DO YOUR JOBS NOW! YOUR JOB IS TO EDUCATE BERKELEY KIDS! Stop failing the children of Berkeley!

  148. In competent jurisdictions, like Taiwan and Netherlands the schools are just open. I don’t see anything in this plan that adopts the practices of those places. Notably, countries that have opened schools require 14 days of self-isolation whenever a teacher, student, or member of their households travels out of the country. In our case, that should be out of California. Why don’t we have this aspect?

  149. I understand that there are a lot of details to convey, but this article is very confusing. The paragraph about high school classes, for example, seems contradictory. In one sentence, we learn that “all learning for secondary education will be online.” Later in the same paragraph, we learn that “older students would take three classes per semester, and attend school four days a week. … [with] spaced-apart desks and mask use.” Which one is it? Are they going to a school building? Or are they staying home?

  150. “The district is also making changes based on what worked for students — and what didn’t — during the whole last quarter of distance learning.” From an educational perspective, none of it worked from my perspective as a parent. After school was canceled, almost nothing was covered. One hopes Berkeley High can do better next year so children, like mine, don’t lose an additional year of education.