John Muir Elementary School during the pandemic, and distance learning. The playground is wrapped in caution tape, and an old banner to the right says "Welcome! Go Grizzlies!"
An empty entrance to John Muir Elementary School in April. Photo: Pete Rosos

All Berkeley Unified School District students will likely start the fall 2020 semester with distance learning only, after the district pivoted on previous plans for hybrid education. The move was prompted by worsening COVID-19 conditions locally, and comes as staff and faculty scramble to make a slew of preparations in four short weeks.

Superintendent Brent Stephens told Berkeleyside he will recommend the change — which will apply to all grade levels, and is accompanied by a new, more robust distance-learning plan —at this week’s board meeting on July 15. The board will vote on the change at the following meeting, on July 29.

In a letter sent to the BUSD community tonight, Stephens said: “I still see that a return to on-campus learning reopening is possible; I just don’t see that doing so on August 17th is feasible.” He called the decision to shift plans “heartbreaking,” and said schools would no longer immediately return to limited in-person education plans even if the county moved forward with reopening, instead focusing on strong, well-developed distance learning programs.

Stephens told Berkeleyside that the decision has been “emotionally wrenching” for everyone planning the next academic year, and acknowledged that parents may have intense feelings about the news. BUSD had been simultaneously planning for hybrid learning and distance learning throughout the summer, but it has now decided to zero in on strengthening remote options.

“It’s a very difficult bit of news to be delivering to the Berkeley community.” — Superintendent Brent Stephens

“It really is, and has been — throughout the course of our summer of work — our commitment to bring students back on campus,” he said. “It’s a very difficult bit of news to be delivering to the Berkeley community, that we don’t feel it’s feasible.”

Previous district plans were conditional on the relaxing of shelter-in-place orders countywide, but, in the past several days, Alameda County has been placed on a state watch list to monitor growing infection rates, increases in hospitalizations and other criteria. Today Gov. Newsom ordered the re-closing statewide of businesses that had gradually been allowed to reopen. And, this week, the state’s two largest school districts, in Los Angeles, San Diego, also announced that they would not be returning to campus in the fall.

These developments influenced the district’s decision, said Stephens, as well as the daunting task of completely revamping schools for in-person learning by Aug. 17, the start of the school year. Among other complicated logistics, this would have involved setting up separate entrances for student and staff, arranging thousands of schedules, procuring cleaning supplies, and creating specialized COVID-19 education trainings for community members. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers, a teacher’s union, also passed two resolutions last week that called for distance learning in the fall. That move also guided the district’s plans, Stephens said.

A rolling opening for in-person activities

BUSD is describing the plan as a “rolling opening,” and while there are no specific dates or criteria set for the introduction of campus activities, distance learning could eventually make way for hybrid learning. “Key programs” would be prioritized, which include those for younger children, students with Individualized Education Plans and the three Early Childhood Education programs at Franklin Preschool, Hopkins and King preschools.

A survey conducted by the district in June found that 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, but many community members — especially those with young children, also rely on schools as a form of child care.

The district is focusing on distance learning for the fall, but it’s aiming to transform the rudimentary model that administrators, teachers and students quickly pulled together in the first months of the pandemic.

Improvements will include daily video instruction, structured schedules, “engaging remote learning content,” attendance checks and consistent communication, according to the district’s letter. The district will also broaden its plans to share Chromebooks and technology resources through the Ed-Hub, continue meal service and other supportive programs.

When time is right, younger students will return to school first

The school has set separate benchmarks to check in with schools as it works toward in-person education, and it’s likely that younger students will return to school first. Elementary and middle schools will remain in distance learning for the first eight weeks of school, and the district will provide an update around mid-September.

High school students will remain in distance learning until winter break. As described in previous plans, Berkeley High and Berkeley Technical Academy may be used supplementally for clubs, athletics and technical training before students fully return to in-person learning.

The district has held community town halls, and specific events for African American and Spanish-speaking families, since schools first shut down in March. It is planning to host additional meetings in August once school plans for next year are finalized. It’s also asking families to continue submitting the Instructional Program Choice form it shared last week to gauge preferences for its general planning.

“When we are able to anticipate reopening school campuses more fully, we commit to re-surveying families and providing further program details before confirming program choices for students,” the letter says.

Some school districts around the country have said they’re reopening with on-campus learning, in line with guidance from President Donald Trump. Stephens said the next month will show which districts are able to take that step, but it’s certainly not one BUSD can approach with confidence.

“It may well be that in other communities, there’s a realistic path to reopening. I suspect, over the next four weeks, as those districts as well wrestle with the details, that they will I think be forced to confront some more realities about how difficult this is going to be,” he said.

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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282 Comments

  1. What a shame. I hope these decisions don’t impact our children’s future. It is definitely going to set all kids back, emotionally and cognitively. Learning on a screen is not the same as in-class instruction. Time will tell if this was a good idea. Get this kids back in school in the spring.

  2. The CDC recommends students have in person learning, what say you BUSD? So the parents want it and the CDC says you should do it busd will do their own thing right?

  3. Here are my take aways on the situation that occurred in Israel. As always, YMMV:
    1. Overcrowding and lack of distancing: In Israel, pressure to return everyone to school after a partial reopening on 3 May was intense. Two weeks later, classrooms welcomed back all students, housing their usual 30 to 40 pupils. Distancing in class was impossible, says Efrat Aflalo of Israel’s Ministry of Health. So the country embraced another protective strategy: masks.
    2. Lack of mask discipline: For Aflalo, the potential value of masks was underscored after a record-setting heat wave struck Israel in mid-May. As temperatures rose to 40°C, masks became intolerable, and with the health ministry’s blessing, students and teachers largely put them aside for almost a week.

  4. Like many have said, K-5 students should do in-person education, all others should do online. It makes sense both in terms of the pandemic and in terms of what these kids need at different age levels.

  5. I think I have mentioned it here before but I know several people who are going to go into debt to send their children to private schools this fall hoping that the private schools will be able to navigate the requirements of in-person instruction since BUSD seems unable to handle it.

  6. Not having preschool experiences will set a whole cohort of children back developmentally.

  7. For a city that spends so much time talking about ‘equity’ I cannot think of a worse thing to do than fail to provide in-person teaching for another semester. Alameda’s positive rate is 5% which is the same as it was at the beginning of June (data from the county’s own web site). Quite frankly the Teachers Union likes getting paid a full-time salary for part-time work and they’ll use any excuse to keep this very ‘sweet’ situation going as long as possible.

  8. About how easily middle and high-school kids can pass it on to adults:
    “As school districts around the United States debate when and how to reopen schools, a large new study from South Korea offers a note of caution. It found that children between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread virus at least as well as adults do, suggesting that middle and high schools in particular may seed new clusters of infection.

    Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often, the study found, although the risk is not zero. That is consistent with what many other studies have reported.

    Several experts said that the study was carefully done and that the results suggested schools should have concrete plans in place for dealing with outbreaks before reopening.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/18/world/coronavirus-news.html
    https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1315_article

  9. Brilliant! You put together a creative and innovative approach to a difficult situation. We are all in this together and facing a powerful common enemy, so please, instead of flying into a rage, let us all join together and come up with solutions using common sense and the resources we have at our disposal. And the greatest resource we have is each other. It will not be easy or perfect, but let us remember the words of the old union song, solidarity together.

  10. The risks of keeping schools closed far outweigh the benefits
    Millions of young minds are going to waste
    The new coronavirus poses a low risk to children. Studies suggest that under-18s are a third to a half less likely to catch the disease. Those under ten, according to British figures, are a thousand times less likely to die than someone aged between 70 and 79. The evidence suggests they are not especially likely to infect others. In Sweden staff at nurseries and primary schools, which never closed, were no more likely to catch the virus than those in other jobs. A new study of 1,500 teenage pupils and 500 teachers who had gone back to school in Germany in May found that only 0.6% had antibodies to the virus, less than half the national rate found in other studies. Granted, an outbreak at a secondary school in Israel infected over 150 pupils and staff. But with precautions, the risk can be minimised.

  11. H1N1 killed around 2,000 schoolchildren in 2009 but our educational institutions remained open. Also, see JAMA study I linked in another comment below. No easy answers, especially if you have underlying conditions that make you vulnerable.

  12. If you truly value your children, you will value their teachers. Many teachers have died after being exposed to the virus in school settings. Most teachers I know want to get back to in-person teaching, but to do so safely and rationally will require an investment in new systems/facilities, and that takes time.

  13. One of my kids, who is otherwise healthy as a horse, is vulnerable to respiratory viruses due to the anatomy of his respiratory tract–he has ended up in the urgent care clinic with croup multiple times–so spreading among kids is in fact an issue for me. I am thankful that it seems to be much rarer among children, but I have an acquaintance on the east coast whose nine-year-old (again, otherwise healthy) was in the hospital with MIS-C, so I’m far from convinced that this is harmless.

  14. I stand corrected. Many local private schools now have rolling admissions and they are trying to fill up their classes for fall. They would have openings for seemingly two reasons:
    1. Parents decided that free not-school was better than paid not-school, so those who saw the virus path accurately declined to re-enroll their kids in private school.
    2. Parents lost jobs and couldn’t afford it anymore.

    Which is all moot anyway with Newsom’s order.

  15. Parents said this since a while.
    But the BUSD closure is not due the kids etc… its due to teacher unions. The teachers don’t want to come to work at schools and the state does not want to put more money into schools to make it safer.
    None of this has anything to do with the spreading among kids.

  16. I am a taxpaying member of the public. So yeah, teachers are my employees, same as yours, assuming you pay tax.

    Did you skip Civics class in high school?

  17. OK, so what other social contracts should I throw out?
    It’s YOUR car, so if I steal it YOU should be responsible for recovering it from me because the defunded police don’t feel like working because they are worried about COVID.

    Or maybe your doctor doesn’t feel “safe” to treat you any more. Well no matter, it’s YOUR health. YOU are responsible for it.
    Does that sound good to you? Same logic.

    EVERYBODY else is working. Snowflake teachers are putting themselves ahead of children. Guess who’s more important? Children, every time. Period.

  18. I’m finally out of BUSD. Thank Goodness! With plenty of other challenges to coordinate and maneuver through but there is one response regarding your point… “….rather than flying into a rage, we can use this moment of discomfort to consider new solutions..” – I’m all about new and creative solutions and actually think it’s a better use of that expended energy but if you are referencing working with BUSD around new solutions especially if you are the parent with the ideas that would actually help the district – don’t expect much. They are all talk when it comes to “partnering” with parents. Perhaps you haven’t reached BHS yet. That’s where the rage comes. From administrators to board members – the community is sick and tired of their @#%$.

  19. If you are setting your child in front of a screen for the entire day that is definitely destructive to their mental health. On the other hand, if you are engaging with them, doing projects, talking walks in your neighborhood and making opportunity for creative play it’s probably not the at home schooling that is having a negative impact on their mental health. Also interesting how many parents in Berkeley talk about their child’s mental health when really they are talking about adult mental health and wishing they could escape their new reality of full time parenting.

  20. Do you know any psychologists that work with teens, especially young women? Ask them what they think about what SIP has done.

  21. I wouldn’t say expendable but the quality of life and education of a generation is more important than protecting the health of boomers. They’ve picked the carcass of this country clean already.

  22. As far as fatalities go, US is still doing better than Belgium, UK, Spain, Italy, Sweden and France. The US Case Fatality Rate is lower than all of these countries so our testing regime is catching more instances of people with COVID-19. Countries doing about 15% better than the US include Ireland and the Netherlands. The Swiss have 50% fewer fatalities (per 100k) than the US and Germany & Denmark are doing 4 times better.

  23. Seems as though everyone has been planning for the best instead of worst this whole time. Has nobody been planning since March?

    Remember this when that next tax or bond shows up on ballot.

  24. Don’t forget the flu shots this fall, either.
    Characteristics and Outcomes of Children With Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Infection Admitted to US and Canadian Pediatric Intensive Care Units
    Finally, it is important to emphasize that the overall burden of COVID-19 infection in children remains relatively low compared with seasonal influenza. As of April 28, 2020, the CDC report 8 deaths in children 14 years or younger related to COVID-19 infection, whereas there have so far been 169 influenza-related deaths in children 14 years or younger during the 2019-2020 season, with 81 of these occurring in 2020.14,15
    Thus, up to this time of the pandemic in North America, children continue to face a far greater risk of critical illness from influenza than from COVID-19, pointing to the imperative for ongoing preventive pediatric health maintenance during this time.

  25. The teachers’ union deserves our thanks for urging the district to make right decision to keep our kids and all of us safe.

  26. It might be helpful to have some perspective here and keep in mind that this situation is playing out in districts around the country and with similar outcomes. The switch to distance learning in the spring was rocky for everyone I’ve spoken to, from CA to AZ, MI, OH, and KY. Not having in-person schooling in the fall will be incredibly difficult for everyone, and it is a problem that a majority of metropolitan districts are facing right now.

    BUSD has many successes and many failures, but it is not unique in grappling with this challenge and having to adjust to weekly and daily changes in public health regulations, and not having much of a budget to do so. Rather than directing ire and frustration at teachers, maybe start working on building the community connections you’ll need as an individual over the next year to make this somewhat bearable. The pandemic is not going to be convenient for anyone. Rather than flying into a rage, we can use this moment of discomfort to consider new solutions.

    As happy as our family has been with our kids’ experience thus far at BUSD, there are things I have taken issue with or would have done differently myself. I am trying to see this year in a positive way as a time when I can control how/what my kids learn. More outdoor time, less holding them back in subjects they excel in just because the rest of the class hasn’t caught up yet. Also less sleep for me and their dad, probably, and some stressful times, but also an occasion to make meaningful connections with neighbors. . .

    Just my 2 cents.

  27. Yes, but at the same time, they are YOUR children. You are the provider not the school. It is not the school staff duty to abandon concerns for their own children, health and well being to take care of yours. Period.

  28. Per the several studies I’ve seen already, they don’t appear to have hurt much. Because they were almost all outdoors (except in Seattle) and most participants were masked, for at least 2 different reasons.

  29. btw i’m progressive but unfortunately if trump says anything some are triggered and just put up walls. this is not the time to be reactionary. we must all use reason & in this crisis research local spreads.

  30. Great. I’m just wondering how the mechanics work when private schools finalize their classes (usually full) back in March and require enrollment by the end of March. Applications are typically due in January. What private schools suddenly have space available now? You can see where this is going, right? If you can’t explain the mechanics of a thing, maybe the thing is fake. Yeah. there might be 1-2 seats around where parents canceled or moved, but if you are talking about something other than that, which is completely usual, please say more. It would appear that private schools went through their entirely normal process of application and admission and filled their classes about 2 weeks after the SIP started.

  31. right after trump stated we should have 5 days of school. and their stance didn’t change they just emphasized we should look at community spread. if you look at our community it’s still mostly old folks homes.

  32. Regarding “heartbreak” – please grow up. Professionals make hard decisions and deliver bad news without trying to make people feel sorry for them. Own your outcomes!

  33. Going to school is normal you need a study with proof to keep them out not the other way around, you seem confused.

  34. Every time I read the headline

    In ‘heartbreaking’ decision, Berkeley schools superintendent calls for all fall classes to be online
    I want to gag! Stephens made this decision because the teachers union told him he had to…Period!
    The teachers union is a corrupt political lobbying organization with way too much power no one group should have that much power to effect elections they are no different than the corrupt big business lobbyists.

  35. Sorry CNN is NOT a Data point they are a politically influenced opinion show…They are not even the news anymore.

  36. Yes, get the “jacked up” teacher’s salary tax reversed with a veto referendum. The schools lobbied for the tax using misrepresentations of the tax revenue available to them. Millions of dollars in assessment tax revenue go uncollected in the City of Berkeley and 40% of it should have gone to the schools and 7% should have gone to schools maintenance each year. Now, the average homeowner has to pay the higher burden of the new tax because so many landlords and those who have added on to their homes haven’t paid their fair share for years. The List of 500 Underassessed properties submitted to City Council on July 15 has a sampling of the evidence in the folly.

  37. I have a kid in Independent study in BUSD. it was a joke during the pandemic – way scaled back. Kids who use to spend an hour a week with the teacher now got 30 mins a week ( I have no idea what the teacher did with all the extra free time – they always worked with a model where they had to prep ahead for that hour) and almost no additional services (they used to have additional classes like art and access to tutors etc). I (the parent) started being referred to as the “home teacher” in their communications. I’m actually thinking of switching back to “regular school” as independent study was so bad.

  38. I agree with all your points. I am just trying to be helpful and try and find workarounds. I am a parent and have been there. (My child is now a teenager.)

  39. The best practices elsewhere are a “result of privilege” and can’t be applied to Berkeley.. lol

  40. This is fine if one parent stays at home or is able to work from home.
    If both parents have to go to work, don’t have local family, and can’t afford a nanny…… well then what?

    Kids going to school is part of our social contract. Lives are built around it.

    “Getting creative” is a privilege. Getting to work is essential. Just because you’re able to organize educational playdates for your kids, don’t assume that we all have that luxury.

  41. Yes, or even purely online schools that are professionally run, unlike what we got from BUSD. I know three families that have made that choice.

  42. There would be very few or no dead children. They’re almost unaffected by regular COVID-19 infection, the rate of MISC is very low, and I don’t think there’s been a US fatality from it yet. It’s their grandparents living in the same household who’d be dying.

  43. I’m glad to see such truth in advertising from them. It reveals how they make decisions based on their emotional reactions, not facts.

  44. The death rate per known infection has been temporarily going down because 1) there’s a 2- to 4-week delay between infection and death, when it occurs, 2) testing has been increasing rapidly, and 3) it’s reckless teens and 20-somethings who are going out maskless and not distancing, getting infected and only rarely dying. The death rate is now starting to go up nationwide (+43% over 14 days ago) because we’re now past that delay after so many states recklessly reopened.

  45. > This situation is so fluid, how could one not plan for these contigencies?
    This is BUSD, with its unbroken record of incompetence and worse.

    > See if KQED or NPR, in general, can donate access to its documentary series for BUSD students to supplement learning,
    KQED has been doing K-12-specific programming since June 18. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, KQED will be broadcasting educational programming aligned with state standards weekdays on KQED Plus.” That’s broadcast channel 9.2, and KQED World is 9.3. It’s scheduled to end on August 29, but we’ll see.
    https://www.kqed.org/education/athomelearning
    Anyone with a digital TV can get these channels with a $20 flat-panel antenna, no cable or satellite subscription required. And there are tons of existing online education sites, starting with Khan Academy.

  46. I also know elementary school parents who have opted out of BUSD and gone private so this is not made up.

  47. School is not daycare. I know we all use it as such at times but it’s purpose is education. I acknowledge that it is a difficult situation that we are all enduring.

    For those that are really struggling with what to do with their kids here is an idea – form little bubbles with families in like situations. Maybe 3 or 4 kids your children are friends with and their families. Take covid tests, make agreements about how you will handle social distancing with outsiders. Then set up a schedule to share the load. Maybe on Mondays they spend 9 AM – 1 PM at parent A’s house. They can bring their tablet or chromebook and distance learn from there with one parent taking care of them. Then on Tuesday they spend 9 AM – 1 PM at parent B’s house with a similar set up. Same for the rest of the week. Then each family has the group for one day a week and can work the other days. The kids do some school work with an adult present to help out and a chance to be with other kids while the adults get some childcare so they can work.

    Or don’t focus on who your kids’ current friends are but what kids about the same age live on your block so you don’t even have to drive there. The kids can walk to the neighbor’s homes. Get creative.

  48. That’s cold! Do you not have anyone over 50 or with asthma, heart disease, diabetes etc in your extended family? Do you really think anyone who is over 60 is on their way out in a year or two? Do you not know older people? It is not just people in their 80s who die. Is everyone older than you expendable?

  49. Which private schools are doing in person learning that still have openings? Most chose their applicants in March and classes were filled long ago. This sounds made up.

  50. Speaking of SCIENCE the National Academy of Sciences just released a report recommending that in person school be prioritized.

  51. I totally get that. People should protect themselves. Keep your kids at home if you’re not a healthy person or have old people at home. We’re sacrificing everything for old sick people, many of whom were on their way out in the next year or two anyhow. I don’t think that is a good trade.

  52. Middle and high school students ought to be able to adapt to distance learning relatively easily, if teachers are required to be present and involved. Grade school is the real problem here since those children cannot handle spending hours behind a screen every day.

  53. Why hasn’t Yvette Felarca been fired by BUSD yet? How many millions have the legal fees relating to her political antics stolen from our children?

  54. Covid-19 is more contagious but significantly less lethal than the flu for K-12 aged children.

  55. Verified infection rates are going up, deaths are going down. It’s important to remember that this disease was ripping through our communities for months before we began widespread testing so we have no idea what the true infection rates were early in the pandemic.

  56. Multiple elementary school aged parents I know who loved their BUSD schools are being forced to make the difficult decision to go into debt in order to send their children to private schools where they can do in-person schooling. I do not know a single parent who supports this.

  57. I am an elementary school parent, and I speak with many other elementary school parents.
    I have not spoken to A SINGLE elementary school parent who thinks distance learning works for elementary school age children. Additionally, opinion is unanimous that this has been very destructive for the mental health of small children.

    Perhaps there are some parents who want it, but anecdotally I’d say that the vast majority of parents are devastated by this news.

    [This comment has been moderated. -Eds]

  58. This is absolutely devastating for working families.
    I don’t know how we’re going to do it. We both work. Who is going to stay home with our first grader?
    No relatives, we don’t have enough money for a nanny.

    We’re out of options.

    How come teachers get to opt out when everybody else has to step up to keep society running?
    Teachers, you are public servants. You are letting us down.

  59. So tell me how are the front line workers doing their job when they have to care for their own children and watch them in front of the computer?

  60. All of these pissed off parents should get a ballot measure together to suspend the new tax that jacks up teachers’ and administrators’ salaries. No pay hike.

  61. “Capitalistic greed” is a little much. People are out of work and businesses are closing. We are way beyond the Great Recession here. At least you’re still getting paid right? Or are your services free to all of the people who lost their health insurance?

  62. A bit of venting here, and perhaps it is the language of the article and not with BUSD. But to read that this decision, “comes as staff and faculty scramble to make a slew of preparations in four short weeks.” makes it sound like this possibility had previously been unanticipated.
    This is a pandemic in motion. Some countries, states, counties have strict controls and consequences. Societal vs. individual rights are playing out in this country. Slow testing of the waters, so to speak, as we open up here in California, which I appreciate. But then it should come as no surprise that there is an increase in cases- that has been a possibility since the beginning, given how we humans can behave.
    What saddens and frustrates me is that after 3 months of distance learning and a week-early student dismissal of classes in June for discussions about Fall, plus another month of summer break, the possibility of 100% distance learning was not being planned/anticipated alongside hybrid education, such that everyone is “scrambling to make a slew of preparations”.
    This situation is so fluid, how could one not plan for these contigencies? Wishful thinking and district surveys convey community desires but it does not control viruses. It has been a month out from student dismissal and a month until school starts. Unfortunately, this was coincidentally the worst possible time to start the new school year a week early.
    How is the district going to ensure that teachers are available to teach- will child care be provided? Will professional-grade screens and reliable internet connections be provided? Would teachers be able come into their classrooms for use of school wifi and computers?
    I think we do need to accept that this virus and our handling of it is going to require flexibility in our scheduling, which isn’t easy, especially when lives are at risk, rent or mortgage needs to be paid, food needs to go on the table, and health insurance needs to come from…somewhere. I think we all just want a good education for our kids but not at the expense of lives, while not being buried with financial burdens. I don’t think any one wants anyone to die. This is an uncertain time for us all and we are scared. Well, at least I’m scared.
    Reading this article, I am not feeling very confident that BUSD will be providing an adequate learning forum and that is what frustrates me. Any district that is scrambling with a month to go does not instill confidence.
    Perhaps there is some generally successful district it can stream from, kind of like a Netflix for teaching. See if KQED or NPR, in general, can donate access to its documentary series for BUSD students to supplement learning, do what is necessary to keep our public library access available. Then use any money BUSD might be saving to provide more enhanced IEP and English language learning enrichment.

  63. SCIENCE and health over capitalistic greed The school district is still getting paid, I’m not sure I understand this great choice DR. Stephens made?

  64. Then you would know from research that sending kids back to school in Europe did not cause rates of Covid to rise. Europeans seem to know that sending children to school is a priority. From the comments on Facebook and here, scared Americans are afraid of children dying. That doesn’t sound like science-based thinking.

  65. Of course if none of the kids have it they aren’t going to spread it. And clerks behind plexiglass and adults using masks responsibly reduces risk. Middle school and high school teachers have way more than 20 students! They may have 4 classes of 30 students per teacher.

  66. Are you not getting that kids get it and spread it to others who are more vulnerable??? It is not just about a child getting it, although there are children who get very sick.

  67. Sure, do what is best for YOUR children. Just don’t expect others to risk their health by teaching them, providing bus service for them, clean up after them etc.

  68. If we really all bit the bullet and stayed home for several weeks this would end and we would endure so much less economic hardship. Look at Europe. It is nearly over in places like Italy. It was really bad there but the brought their numbers down and now they are going back to normal. We are like small children fighting the inevitable and prolonging our agony.

  69. Dr. Stephens can you please explain where all of our special tax money is going? especially the BSEP tax that is supposed to reduce class size…I’m assuming we will get a 100% refund because class size is ZERO!

  70. Dr. Stephens,
    Thank you for advancing the plan for an improved distance learning BUSD plan in light of the worsening rate of COVID infection in our state and county.
    I fully support the public health mitigation measures and keeping children home is the safest option for students, teachers, staff and everyone’s families.
    We need to flatten the COVID Pandemic’s curve and focusing efforts on distance learning is a caring expression that the BUSD community respects and cares about each other. This plan protects our esteemed teachers, our precious children and thus our future! Further, keeping the schools closed will allow front line medical providers to have access to more PPE to help sick patients. While I understand that this was a heartbreaking process, your plan warms my heart as a pediatrician and mom.
    Most importantly SCIENCE and health over capitalistic greed and egoism.
    Warmly,
    Parent -Sylvia Mendez Elementary School

  71. So Murica, if a teacher is only teaching 1/3rd of his or her usual number of students who would be teaching the other 2/3s? And if instead the same number of teachers are teaching then they would be exposed to the same number of kids total that they usually do, even if it two days a week instead of five.

    If people are getting Covid 19 from a hour church service, singing once a week in a group, or from a funeral or wedding I believe the odds from inside a classroom for an hour would be similar.

  72. In March Science said wear a mask but the Experts said otherwise, in fact they said it was bad to wear a mask.

  73. Of course it’s not the flu but why would there be a different standard of liability for the school district?

  74. The teachers unions are across the whole united states and has more political power than just about any organization. People need to get their heads out of the sand and stop acting like sheep.

  75. Are you suggesting BUSD learn things, like best practices, from other school districts? Sacrilege! The Berkeley way is always the “best” way, besides, it’s too much work to do this research. Wringing hands and sending out overwrought messages intended to direct attention away from our failures is the only way to do this.

  76. Yes, California is on an electoral razor’s edge. This dastardly plot is clearly an attempt to deliver our electoral votes to Joe Biden, who will otherwise (checks notes) not have to make a single visit or run a single ad to win California by north of 30%.

    There’s a kind of grandeur to this level of delusion.

  77. They will be doing the bare minimum, whatever the state decides that is, to get their ADA money. That’s all that really matters to them.

  78. Not if none of the 20 something kids have the virus…way more odds of getting the virus for the clerk who might be in contact with 200 -300 customers.

  79. The comments on this article are illuminating. We’re facing a generational health and economic crisis, in which some 140,000 people have died WITH shutdowns and distancing, and infection rates are spiraling out of control after a partial reopening that included some bars and outdoor dining. And responding to that reality — even acknowledging it — is seen by a good % here as A) a plot to get Trump and B) wholly driven by teacher’s unions.

    It’s pretty remarkable. I mean, I have kids in BUSD. I want them in school. It’s also been clear for months that there was no way it was going to happen, in large measure because of the kind of spit-filled denial on display here. Yes, length of exposure counts. Yes, teachers are at greater risk than grocery clerks as a result (an elementary classroom is more comparable to a bar than a grocery store). Yes, it is overwhelmingly likely that school openings would lead to increased outbreaks and forced closures — at which time we’d have to transition to remote learning without having put in the legwork to build out as good a system as a possible. Yes, this all stinks. But it’s still true.

    You want reopening? Advocate for a universal, nationwide, 3 week shutdown to crush the curve. At this point that’s the only thing that has a chance of getting us back to some kind of normal (and honestly it was probably too late for that as of May).

    But go ahead with the theories about unions whose secret plans are to shut down local elementary schools to…deliver California’s hard-fought electoral votes to Biden, I guess? I mean, it’s insane on its own terms, but it does clarify who’s just spouting reactionary nonsense.

  80. That’s incorrect. Think of it like radiation — slight exposure could cause a problem, lengthy exposure probably will, indefinite exposure is a guarantee.

  81. You, and others like you, who are hyper-reactionary, and not keen to look at the actual facts about actual deaths among young people, should keep your kids at home. Your kids can login.

  82. I don’t envy the people having to make this decision — they were going to have people mad at them no matter what they decided. Our country is in the process of destroying itself and I’m glad I live in a city whose leadership is trying its best to minimize the consequences of catastrophic failure of national leadership.

  83. To better understand the politics behind ongoing school closure and why some of our more notorious activists are getting in on the action here, read the statement just issued by the Los Angeles Teachers union and the list of demands they have attached to their own threats not to reopen. Like defunding the racist police so much of what we attribute to local craziness is now just astro-turf from elsewhere repurposed to feel organic (the kids organized it themselves!!) without the safety mechanisms local activists long ago developed for themselves, esp. regarding how to block violent provocateurs, cults and corporate or organized communist manipulation. Young people wont be taught about these potential dangers to activism because they serve a new set of masters who do not care for our community or for them as individual human beings.

  84. I will and I think more than you know. There have been schools in Berkeley open the whole time. No outbreaks.
    Evidence shows transmission between children is minimal. Check out
    UCSF Grand Rounds. YMCA great example too. We need collaborative
    effort between parent and teachers. Outdoor classrooms! Kids need to
    be in school as much as possible according to American Academy of
    Pediatrics. Kids have suffered enough in this crisis. Kids &
    Teachers who want to opt out and distant learn/teach should be able to
    without penalty. We cannot have an education gap and upper mid class
    flee to private schools!

  85. There have been schools in Berkeley open the whole time. No outbreaks.
    Evidence shows transmission between children is minimal. Check out
    UCSF Grand Rounds. YMCA great example too. We need collaborative
    effort between parent and teachers. Outdoor classrooms! Kids need to
    be in school as much as possible according to American Academy of
    Pediatrics. Kids have suffered enough in this crisis. Kids &
    Teachers who want to opt out and distant learn/teach should be able to
    without penalty. We cannot have an education gap and upper mid class
    flee to private schools!

  86. You do realize that both of these countries have implemented total suppression protocols more appropriate for SARS/MERS containment. South Koreans can buy two KN95 masks a week from a pharmacy and their cost is capped by the government. These masks not only prevent the spread of COVID-19, but also protect the wearer. In both Hong Kong and South Korea, there was NO spread of the Wuhan Enigma Virus in the school systems. From the NPR 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.”

  87. It’s definitely not about just the kids. It’s that they are vectors for community spread, as you say. Check this out:

    ‘”The cluster of the coronavirus cases has made people in four families sick, including six children at the child care, one sibling, seven parents and two grandmothers, according to Heidi Feathers, who operates the licensed in-home child care with two other parents.

    “The cases go back to a mom who didn’t quarantine as she waited to learn if she had the virus. For three days she brought her child to the child care, Feathers said. It turned out the child was asymptomatic and both the child and mom have since tested positive for the virus, she said.”

    https://www.syracuse.com/coronavirus/2020/07/at-least-16-sick-after-coronavirus-exposure-at-dewitt-in-home-day-care-take-this-seriously-stay-home-if-sick-at-all.html

  88. Yo this ain’t the flu.

    It’s an incurable disease that we don’t know much about yet.

    Don’t compare it to the flu since it’s like comparing apples and soggy diapers.

  89. Too late. The people have already voted for all the school perks. Discussions here about voting no on all the school bonds and teachers’ raises went unheeded, so here we are. Teachers and all school personnel who also got raises and special program money are very happy.

    Where will the BSEP money for art, music, gardening, library books, campus supervisors, PR people and all the rest go now that kids are taught at home? And are smaller class sizes still necessary if there is no classroom?

  90. these are good questions! My assumption is that the stuff in the survey form that went out to parents is out the window now that they’re focusing on distance only. Further I’m assuming that they will be teaching more or less live classes and it will be more involved than the spring. But perhaps these are just my assumptions.

  91. Maybe you’ll get ours who slept through “office hours” multiple times. In the early afternoon.

  92. There definitely needs to be a serious attempt to educate outdoors. I can’t understand why we haven’t moved more life outside, across sectors.

  93. No it wouldn’t 1/3 of the kids only 2 days a week for 4 hours works out to be roughly 1/5 to 1/6 of the normal exposure.

  94. The data is in the same file that shows kids are at risk going back to school…it doesn’t exist it’s all speculation please show the study that says kids shouldn’t go back to in person learning.

  95. B-Tech has had a successful Independent study program for years why can’t BHS just increase this on a larger scale? Other than the missing component, common sense that is.

  96. So and what about the parents livelihood? We should eat thin air in the meantime or what?
    This is not going to be a blip. We all know this is not going away for a while.

  97. From the BBC article you suggested…
    “Most of these cases have been linked to a distribution centre outside Seoul.
    The warehouse, in the city of Bucheon, is run by the country’s biggest e-commerce firm Coupang, and officials have said the facility was not strictly complying with infection control measures. Health officials even discovered traces of Covid-19 on workers’ shoes and clothes.”

  98. Unless a lot more teachers are hired each teacher will see 100 – 125 students every couple of days. Would that really reduce their risks significantly? It would still be the same large number of students.

  99. Not true! The brief exposure is less risky than spending a long time interaction with a lot of talking. Also the grocery stores I have been shopping at have plexiglass around the cashiers.

  100. It is not just about children being at risk. It is also about their parents, grandparents, community in general etc. But keep in mind that kids to get it and get sick. Here are a couple of articles for you about coronavirus and children:

    https://www.wtxl.com/news/coronavirus/more-than-11-000-children-test-positive-for-coronavirus-in-florida

    https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/new-york-investigating-157-cases-of-pediatric-covid-illness-mis-c-cuomo-says/2426986/

  101. Schools are essential in the long run. But missing a few more months of school is going to be a mere blip in a lifespan of about 80 years. Yes, the kids are going to miss out on some education, but it can be made up.

  102. Is this based on any reality? Seriously, are more teenagers killing themselves over not being able to go to school for a few more months? Please show the study! I am not seeing it. Maybe their parents are pulling their hair out in frustration, but not teens committing suicide. Come on now.

  103. How many parents would be willing to do this under normal conditions, you can’t sue BUSD if your kid gets and dies from the flu.

  104. It sucks, no doubt about it. However, being temporarily unhappy about not seeing friends vs serious effects of spreading this disease throughout the community (not just the kids at BHS) would be much more devastating. Do you understand that a teenager might not get physically sick but can still spread it all over to those who are more vulnerable? It doesn’t sound it from your post. The sooner we all buckle down and isolate the sooner we will can end this.

    And to answer your question – of course there isn’t a study to show the relative risks of isolating during a pandemic vs the risks of getting the disease. That takes time and we are in the middle of it. So I turn it around to you. Do you have any study proving your theory that it is better in the long run for children to spread a deadly disease vs staying in their homes?

  105. So if teachers only have 1/4 to 1/3 the number of students, are you implying that the school district is going to hire 3 to 4 times as many teachers? Who is going to teach all the students if teachers have such a reduced number of students? I will wait for you to do the math.

  106. Cases are increasing at alarming rates because of nearly a month of protesting. Sure the rates are low in the neighborhoods where the protesting took place because people of those cities were hiding in their houses afraid to get attacked by the mostly peaceful protesters The protesters traveled from other communities where the numbers just coincidentally have skyrocketed.

  107. Wow. First of all, seniors do not take AP Chem. 10th graders do. It’s usually their first experience with AP *and* with chemistry – at least at BHS, and they often need a bit more help navigating it. AP Chem is also one of the more notorious AP classes. “Learn it from books and online.” Maybe if they’re the next Melvin Calvin. These students also need in person labs – the online labs were useless for my kid this spring. So speaking as a mom of an 8th grader and 11th grader, older kids definitely need in person instruction as well.

  108. I disagree most parents can teach the curriculum of an elementary class but not a high school class. Not many parents have Teaching degrees in Chemistry or Physics.

  109. That’s correct the cashier see’s hundreds of unique people each day, it only takes seconds of exposure from an infected person where the teacher sits with the same kids, it’s just a bigger bubble but it doesn’t change.

  110. Berkeleyside, thanks for the fast update. You posted before I received the email from BUSD!

    My kids attend BHS. Is it possible to get more information about the “instructional minutes” BUSD is offering per the Google form sent to parents re. making the choice between hybrid and distance options.

    Link to form:
    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1pNbGveyoEsvLoy-WbOFBWymXtMoGAEagyc3uSXC3KVw/viewform?edit_requested=true

    The “instructional minutes” per grade that BUSD is offering through either the distance or hybrid option seem to be less than the “instructional minutes” required for each grade level on CDE website. BUSD’s proposed hours appear to be short by:
    2 hours per day for grades 9 to 12
    1 hour per day for grades 4 to 8
    50 minutes/day for grades 1 -3
    20 minutes per day for TK/K

    (https://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/pa/instructionaltimetable.asp)

    Is there an “instructional minute” waiver in place or some other guidance for schools due to COVID-19?

    Also, per the BUSD form, “instructional minutes” are a combination of “interactive” and “independent work.” Some high school teachers offered online class every day or several times/week (a heartfelt thanks to those teachers). Some teachers barely made contact with students and sent out packets of independent work. Is completing homework or work packets part of “instructional minutes.”

    If the majority of students need to attend virtually, I would like clarity on how much actual virtual “interactive instruction” my kids will receive. Is there any info on what the union has agreed to with respect to virtual instruction? Do the terms and conditions of the existing contract apply or do new terms need to be negotiated? Teachers shared with my children that they were required to work 50% of the day when the schools first closed. Is it possible to obtain information on the agreement for the 20/21 school year?

    Thanks for the reporting on this issue.

  111. Curious how many of the Pro-Open contingent will:

    * Volunteer to work 1 day a week in the classroom
    * Sign a waiver absolving BUSD of your child’s health status
    * Sign a waiver accepting fractional liability of outcomes caused by your child’s health status

  112. Other countries manage to send kids back to school, keep their infection rates very low, and get their economies back on track. Why can’t we? We need universal contact tracing with effective follow-up and frequent testing. Most of the high school kids will probably manage to learn something remotely but the younger kids will not. Plus many of their parents won’t be able to work and the economic damage will be severe.

    By the way, if we wanted to have really effective contact tracing we would adopt the iPhone and Android system developed by Apple and Google. Several states–not California–have expressed interest, but none have released apps that support it. I guess we’re Americans–we want our freedom–to get sick and lose our jobs. Too bad we don’t have a governor who would do something more than hold interminable news-free news conferences.

  113. It’s not the children, it’s the older adults who live with them who are at risk if they bring the infection home.

  114. The overwrought language left me unimpressed as well. Putting together a solid plan for, at least, attempting to maintain learning should be job #1.
    – Have the teachers map out the learning goals for the year and work together to make excellent on-demand lessons. Unlike when teaching in the classroom, not every teacher needs to make videos for every lesson. Share the work.
    – Support students with mandatory small group office hours where students and teachers can review/discuss/practice or do whatever needs to be done to facilitate learning.
    – Use regular on-going assessment to determine if students are making progress and give that feedback to students AND parents ASAP so we know when to step in to help. Use the technology you already have to make this easier.

    Its not rocket science but it will require leadership and hard work. Many BUSD teachers are extremely competent and creative but they need someone at the top to provide leadership and a vision.

  115. No, because the youngest kids have the shortest attention spans and the greatest need for close in-person supervision and instruction. If a HS senior is smart enough for AP chem, they’re smart enough to learn it from the book and online, with the teacher available to explain a different way and answer questions.

  116. Yes I have kids at BHS, Please post the science that proves school age children are more at risk at school than they are of developing serious depression from being stuck in their bedrooms. There is no reason why BHS cannot spread the students out between the main campus, the adult school, and outdoor classrooms in tents on the football field and courtyards…other than the lack of commonsense the people at BUSD have.

  117. For those who want to protest (or perhaps counter protest!), someone named Yvette (who got access to at least one middle school etree) is organizing a Car Caravan “Motor March” to Keep Our Children Safe: no reopening in August. They’ll rally at the West Campus parking lot today from 2-4pm.
    From WaPo:
    In Finland, when public health researchers combed through test results of children under 16, they found no evidence of school spread and no change in the rate of infection for that age cohort after schools closed in March or reopened in May. In fact, Finland’s infection rate among children was similar to Sweden’s, even though Sweden never closed its schools, according to a report published Tuesday by researchers from the two countries.
    For anyone counter protesting, might I suggest blaring some Graham Parker, Back to School Days.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZi2YXTy00M

  118. Can we demand that every Berkeley High class meet ‘live’ via zoom/conference call for a certain number of minutes per week? Here’s hoping my kid does not get that science teacher whose in-person teaching last semester consisted of his being available one or two hours a week, only at 9 am, and only reachable by text.

  119. Where does the science state school age children should not be in school? I won’t hold my breath!

  120. You aren’t sitting with your grocery cashier for 7 hours a day in a small over crowded classroom, though.

  121. Our youth have nearly zero risk of having serious covid-19 outcomes. They need to be in school, and we need to be able to go to work. The teachers union is contributing to the collapse of our local economy. It’s wrong and is causing great harm to both children and parents alike. If we are forced to hide in our homes for too long, we lose everything.

  122. Please reference the “science data” that shows school age children are at risk. You are correct in Berkeley it’s not a conspiracy theory it’s blatant cult brain washing.

  123. The older students need in person the most, we all can teach the ABC’s to our younger kids but it’s pretty rough to teach AP chemistry for most parents! I wish it wasallgood.

  124. What truth? The truth that cases are increasing at alarming rates in California and therefore, BUSD is taking action to that fact by going online for the safety of their students + staff? The truth is that this current, specific situation has nothing to do with who the president is…

  125. Little kids don’t have the attention span for online learning. My wife is a credentialed teacher who is making a killing tutoring small kids this summer and it will continue in the fall. Those that can afford to are paying twice to get what they were getting last year. Those that can’t afford it are going to get screwed.

  126. The difference is they’ll be replaced with scabs and we, including the members of BFT, will continue shopping there.

  127. There are three possible ways this is going to end:
    1. A vaccine is developed that is safe and effective.
    2. R is reduced below 1 by people actually practicing social distancing, wearing masks when outside their home/car and frequent hand washing.
    3. The virus becomes endemic and we get used to having shorter lifespans.
    Number 1 relies on luck and some would say prayer.
    Number 2 relies on the population having a sense of social responsibility.
    Number 3 is what you get if numbers 1 & 2 aren’t based on something reliable.

  128. I was a supporter of teachers and unions etc… Now I will take every opportunity to vote, rally etc. against them. If this is how you treat your community don’t expect any help from the community.

  129. Oh yeah what about nurses, grocery store employees, amazon shipping people, etc… YES WE CAN DO THAT AND WE MUST!
    Schools are essential business!!

    How is the nurse supposed to help you when her kids sit at home? How is the Dr supposed to insert your breathing tube if he cant leave the house? How are you getting food if the stores are closed?

    yes it is political!! Its purely political unions combined with bad priorities in the state caused this mess!!

  130. Not even then or who is going to watch the kids while they sit in front of a screen all day?

  131. This decision is so unfair to kids and working parents. When did teachers and schooling not be an essential service? Teachers expect grocery store cashiers, janitors, and nurses to attend to their needs but do not expect to have to offer service their communities?

  132. I agree that this was done very sloppily. Many people who received this form thought they were being asked to choose one or the other and that is what they would get; if the intention was just to survey opinion, BUSD should have made it much more clear.

  133. I can’t wait for the whining to start when the retail clerks union forces the stores to close for the clerks safety.

  134. This will get a bunch of downvotes but people know it’s the truth…they just don’t like the truth being rubbed in their faces.

  135. Perhaps some deaths are inevitable but scores of people die every day from all kinds of causes but we can’t restructure Society based on theoretical avoidance of every possible risk

  136. I wish we could step out of these binary frames that this “a terrible decision and a sign of moral failure” or “this is absolutely the only reasonable decision”. I understand feeling frustrated. This is difficult. But all that rhetoric of certainty just makes it harder for us to work together, which is what we need right now. Anything we do as individuals and society is going to have risks and costs, many of which are hard to calculate in advance. Also, there is still so much we don’t know, which makes these forecasts even more challenging. I think it would help us if we tried to get a clearer sense of competing priorities. Yes, we want district employees to minimize health risks and we want to support the development and learning of the children. Yes, parents of young children will find it difficult to work without schools offering in-person education. We know that on-line learning worsens disparities in learning. Given the above, I think we should be able to offer some limited in-person learning to the youngest grades and other students with the highest learning needs, offered by the healthiest and youngest teachers, with appropriate precautionary measures. This approach would allow for low density schools and classrooms making social distancing possible. Then we could monitor how that goes and start adding in older students as we progress.

  137. Do you have kids in school?
    If you do, than you ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice them as spreaders and put you and the people you come into contact with at risk.
    Responsible parents aren’t choosing to put their canaries in a coal mine.
    Listen to science 3rd gen. You just might learn something

  138. How old is your kid? And I ask because those of us with elementary school kids (and more than one) don’t get the luxury of kids “entertaining” themselves. Daycares are open. How is it that we don’t care about daycare teachers lives? And somehow they managed to figure it out with a set of kids who 10000% don’t get social distancing. The risk to school kids is very, very, very low. I support hazard pay for healthy teachers. I support continuing stay at home policies for teachers that have risk factors or members that have risk factors, have them provide remote learning. We can be creative. The BUSD royally failed in the spring and I fail to see they have learned any of their lessons. There is a big middle ground to everyone go back to school and everyone stay home. What isn’t fair is to expect that parents step up and act as free labor while they twiddle their thumbs. How am I suppose to teach my kid to read in the middle of a conference call?

  139. Like AC Transit drivers and 9 of 10 City of Berkeley employees, janitors, gardeners, office workers and cafeteria workers are “working from home.”

    Indeed, we should all become public sector workers!

  140. In Berkeley, we trust in science and the experts. Not the garbled numbers of some anonymous poster. Definitely not those that bring a misguided administration into the conversation.

    I’m a teacher and parent with BUSD.
    The safety of my family and exposure risks are serious and not to be understated..
    You may not understand why our district’s decision was made, but here in Berkeley, we know that science is not a liberal conspiracy.

  141. I personally couldn’t stand the emotional focus of the school district’s announcement. Time to be more professional and less emotional! “It is with great disappointment” would be better than emphasizing the words “heartbreaking” and “emotionally wrenching.”

    Focusing on their own feelings about how things are going and decision making is a beard used by the school district to distract from the fact that they are typically not announcing that they have a plan or that they are succeeding to implement a plan. Instead of hearing about how emotionally draining and hard decisions are to make about the fall, the community would prefer to hear BUSD’s timetable and plan for getting staff up to speed for successful online education.

  142. There are going to be long term effects from this no matter what. Loss of formal learning and all day TV is something one can recover from!

  143. It was a poll of opinions by parents and they disregarded the views of the parents and did what they wanted to do anyway.

  144. We do not know what the actual risks are. We don’t know enough about kids as conduits and we certainly don’t know anything about long term effects. Remember HIV and herpes are viruses, and we are already seeing hints at long term effects. There are SERIOUS, traumatic consequences for keeping kids home….. but the alternatives could be worse, and that’s not a worth risk taking. The wealthiest country (US) should make better options available- fund schools to do this VERY well, focus on real testing and containment, fund families to weather this next period… so many options that don’t involve potentially throwing our kids and their educators under the bus!

  145. It would be even MORE heartbreaking to open the schools and really spread Covid-19. Have we learned nothing from our disasterously premature reopening? Dead schoolchildren. Now that would be heartbreaking.

  146. Well this totally sucks! This decision was obviously made based on pressure from the teachers union and hatred of the president. BUSD thinks this will sway the election but you all were not going to vote for trump anyway, trump will win and then BUSD will have to come up with some other reason why they can’t reopen the schools. If Grocery clerks have to work then I think the teachers should work…It’s a reduced schedule and kids were only going to come twice a week the exposure load was going to be something like one third of normal. Now it’s very obvious the teaches union might as well be a political party they have so much power that you all have given them.

  147. I think we’re all still in a bit of shock about the challenges and tragedy we face. I get the anxiety and anger on the board. This is an extremely complicated and sad twist of fate, made worse by a crippled and corrupt federal response we’re condemned to endure for another six months, during which time the virus may become endemic widely in the country. We do need to think outside the box on mutual aid, on moving business, education, grocery and government activity outdoors, on scaling up non-hospital quarantine capacity for those with milder cases, and much more.

    We have not faced such a challenge since WWII. What we achieved locally to contribute to that effort was magnificent and hardly imaginable. But it was real. We have that muscle. We now need to flex it, to save ourselves and a viable, healthy Berkeley.

  148. I have a full-time job and two elementary school kids (first and fourth grade). I simply don’t want them to get Covid or spread it to their teachers and other grown-ups in their lives. My workaround is letting them watch hours of TV a day. Not ideal but no one will die from that.

  149. If trump loses the election the schools will magically re-open shortly thereafter…

  150. The plan NEVER was for teachers to see 100 -125 kids a day it was more like 1/4 to 1/3 of the normal work load, kids were only going to come 2 days a week for 4 hours you do the math.

  151. Clearly, more Americans have been killed by this pandemic in 5 months than all the combined military attacks in the past 60 years. We’ve spent trillions of dollars since then on our fear of death by violence, yet we left ourselves open to real danger. Would you feel the same way if 130,000 Americans had been killed in a military action? Hell, we changed all of society due to 9/11. You’re right, we should teach children to not live in fear of the world. We should move most of our defense funding to what really matters, more economic safety, more public health, and free education.

  152. The Berkeley way…we don’t want you input we just want you to think your input matters so you keep paying for our agenda.

  153. The unreal thing about all of this is BUSD will have NO LAYOFFS which is unFREAKING BELIEVABLE we are still going to pay all of the support staff like janitors, gardeners, office workers and cafeteria workers even though they will have not of worked for a year…sign me up for one of those positions

  154. BUSD: Most of your kids will be just fine whatever we do to them, and the rest will never be fine whatever we do for them so why not just spend the year protesting Trump.

  155. What if all of the retail clerks unions acted the same way as the teachers unions? We would all be starving with no place to buy groceries. Feeding the brain is just as important as feeding the stomach…Maybe more important!

  156. This happened with our 1st grade teacher. She held classes 2x/week for 30 min at 6:30pm (during our dinner time). Glad that was convenient for her.

  157. Plenty of people making far less than teachers have to go back to work to make a living. How much screen time are you advocating for children? Assuming it is less than a typical school day, what do they do with the remainder of time while parents are working?

  158. Would be fine if BUSD had any clue how to do distance learning. They might as well close the school entirely, lay off the teachers who are refusing to teach, and give the money back to parents who will be better off enrolling in other online programs that know what they are doing.

  159. You’re right Peter, as a society, we should support working and unemployed parents more. European countries were able to shut down more completely while supporting their population so that they could reduce infection enough to open up safely (Germany had 15 cases yesterday, fewer than recent days in Berkeley). In the US, our economic worries and mass stupidity caused us to keep open enough that we never saw a reduction in cases before opening further, causing huge spikes in transmission. It’s really tragic how incompetent we are in dealing with this disease when so many other places have done so much better. Personally, I blame the federal government that has the most power and influence to do the right thing, but they seemingly want more spread and do whatever they can to cause it. Schools won’t open and everyone will continue to suffer until we properly deal with the pandemic, there is no alternative. Opening schools will only cause more spread and more economic hardship.

  160. This is extremely disappointing but not surprising. As a BUSD parent I am just hoping that we can get community spread in Alameda County under control so that we can start sending our kids back to school. But with the current state of things, opening would be risky to everyone, especially teachers.

  161. Wrong, studies of the great depression actually showed a decrease in mortality during that time.

  162. Kids in classes, 20 something proctors, and teachers on screens. The risk of serious issues is insanely low to young people. I get they could spread. If that’s a serious concern of yours you should stay away from young people.

  163. This is such a tough decision. I think it’s the right one, but it clearly will impose a LOT of hardship on parents, both those who work from home and those who need to leave the home. I’m wondering if some of the mutual aid groups that have been set up could be adapted to help these families out, safely, with volunteers to help oversee kids during distance learning. This is a community challenge for all, not just teachers, parents, and students.

  164. It reminded me of when our elementary school had a big meeting for parents to get input on the hiring of a new principal the night before they announced who the new principal was.

  165. Actually I think that after Trump loses or finally exits, the libs will reveal what they’ve known all along, that 5G injections actually give us super powers. Then everything will go back to normal.

  166. Yes. And spring sucked. But things are lousy with school out for summer, too. Kid is fighting anxiety and low-level depression, separated from most friends, stuck with us parents, trying to keep off social media, trying to exercise and read and create and garden with some success. I assume you’re asking because you are also a BUSD parent. I sincerely hope you and yours are coping with this as well as can be.

    As the article indicates, remote schooling this fall is neither a forever thing nor at all desirable. But this virus is highly contagious, and kills, sickens and scars people of all ages. And most unfortunately, we Americans are badly screwing up our response to it in ways that most advanced countries have not. Why are other countries able to open their schools? Because they beat the virus back with painful, hard-fought, collective action, and they stand ready to shut down wherever the virus flares up.

    We almost got there locally. People have mostly been great about respecting each other and the power of this virus to replicate. But we have not done what the other countries managing the virus did, and so, COVID is spreading wildly in some places, and now starting to entrench itself here.

    We have both a practical and moral obligation to ourselves and the medical and first responders who will care for us *not* to let COVID become endemic in our community. Physically opening our schools exposes us to that tragedy. We’re better than that, hard though the road will be.

  167. Anyone that thinks this isn’t a good idea doesn’t understand the reality of our current situation. Teachers and other school staff (custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc.) should not be subjected to potential exposure. Especially at the low wages they currently receive. We all want to get back to work, get back to going outside, get back to having fun again, but seriously with a new wave of COVID-19 we just cannot do that yet.

    Folks need to get real and bite the quarantine bullet. Don’t go out, wear a mask, be safe and smart. If everyone in the US could just abide by these rules we wouldn’t be the laughing stock of the world.

    This isn’t political, it’s an incurable rampant disease that wants to breed as much as possible. Deny it the chance to breed (mask, social distancing, quarantining) and it will go away.

  168. I thought it odd that Stephens’ letter kept referring to the union. Tells me something

  169. only some entitled person who does not have to feed them self with honest work outside from home or care for a family can say that.
    Stay in your prop13 or rent protected house and protect yourself and leave people who are struggling alone with your unwanted advice.

  170. This is a foolish capitulation to mass Hysteria. What does this teach children? That they have to be fearful of the world and stay huddled in their homes in front of a computer? That’s no way to live. Open the schools, don’t give in to fear. Especially when the risk is so minuscule compared to the damage of closing.

  171. I totally support this. We have a son who is starting his senior year at Berkeley High and this is a real disappointment, but reality is we have a pandemic and the likelyhood of spreading Covid 19 to kids and then to their families and the community is just too high. Not to mention the very high risk to teachers – spending hours with 100-125 total kids in their classes each day. That is just too much to ask of them or anyone. It is the right call.

  172. There is no vaccine coming, and if it did, it will be least effective with older people. Any idea what happens to people’s health in a global depression? Millions more die

  173. Don’t send a survey, send enrollment forms. Check this box and your kid gets zoom, check the other and it’s in-school. Then we’ll see if it’s 32%. Have the at risk teachers teach the zoom parents’ kids.

  174. The only thing heart-breaking is the reluctance of the school board to realize that drastic steps must be taken to contain Covid-19, and if distance learning helps do this by isolating the public, then do be it. Stay home, folks.

  175. I posted this many times but I say it again you guys suck!
    So tell me how am I supposed to feed my family while watching my kids sit on a computer? In spring at least you could get creative and skip this nonsense of online school. Now you make it mandatory and monitor it.
    Tell me how do you ensure an 8 year old sits infront of the computer and at least pretend to learn while I am at work? Maybe I should leave them home alone? Oh wait child protective services will come then.
    And yet again you separate the haves from the have not’s. You betray your taxpayers!

  176. you know this has very little to do with the virus and all with money. BUSD and many other school districts are broke because noone pays their taxes any more.

  177. How are teachers who are also Parenting in Place with kids going to make this work? Particularly those who don’t have large living spaces to separate work/home? Voices carry even if headphones are used.

    And it’s not going to get easier with inclement weather.

    I’d suggest that teachers teach from the physical classroom when possible.

  178. Should be easy to do some location verification with these devices. It will be very obvious who is a resident and who is not.

  179. No, you are paying BUSD teachers MORE this year than last to not teach your kids. The beatings will continue until morale is improved.

  180. I have little doubt that the primary consideration was the BFT. That’s the thanks Berkeley taxpayers get for voting to shell out a 14% raise to BUSD teachers. Enjoy your 14% raises while shafting the students of BUSD schools with sub-standard “distance learning”.

    Berkeley has a very low rate of community transmission at least if you believe the BPH department, another useless thing we pay for since it doesn’t seem to matter as far as the SIP or as the basis of decision making for the school district. What is the point?

  181. Thank you for doing the right thing, BUSD. Now please give the teachers a week of distant learning-focused professional development before school starts. And get them all a decent computer, monitor, and ergonomic chair. Don’t make the BPSF pay for it all!

  182. Online education in Berkeley won’t work. Parents that work from home won’t be able to adequately provide care, low income folks and underrepresented minorities will have a much larger disparity with white and asian students. The achievement gap is going to become larger than ever. If you don’t want to send your kids to school then don’t, but let everyone else get back into the classrooms. I think we should say that at least half of students in each class will need to remediate the upcoming year. Families with means and with at least one parent not working will be challenged, but will get by, and the use of private tutors will help, but those that can’t afford to will get behind. The “…new, more robust distance-learning plan..” will be an utter failure. Students will be watching 7-8 hours of tv a day. Way to go Berkeley!

  183. That is not a democracy rather more like Marxism and or Communism. It was a farce that BUSD even took a poll, they were going to do what they wanted to do anyway. The survey was just to make the parents feel like they had a voice.

  184. I want a tax rebate for the special taxes we pay to raise teachers salaries and especially for BSEP which was sold as reducing class sizes which we all know now goes for all of the special agenda projects. The tax payers are and have been getting ripped off for years! And especially NOW!

  185. What is the cost of one or more kids committing suicide or going into deep depression that could last the students whole life??? Does our collective responsibility cover these illnesses or does that not fit the agenda?

  186. Early Childhood programs are prioritized??? Are they a required program to be offered by public school districts?? If not, why are they a priority over K-12?

    Some school districts are opting to start the school year a little later. This is the earliest start ever for BUSD. Why not push back til just after Labor Day like school used to be for years? Or at least late August as it has been for awhile. That would buy some time for the virus to maybe calm down and be able to start school at school — or at least mean less time distance learning.

  187. Is it possible for homeowners to get a refund on our school taxes since we have to school our own children at home? Seems only fair.

  188. They’re going to keep everything locked down until after the election and then either after Trump loses in November or finally exits office on January 20th everything will suddenly get better and in-person instruction will be allowed to resume.

  189. Agreed! And amazing how many folks in Berkeley are in lockstep with trump on “get those schools open as fast as possible,” to hell with safety or health.

  190. Only in Berkeley does the 38% get to tell the majority (62%) how it’s going to be…SMFH!

  191. Good for Dr. Stephens. It would have been the height of irresponsibility to open our schools in the current worsening COVID situation. It is a significant hardship for all involved, and just deeply sad on a human level. But the risk to everyone — a mortal risk — is far greater, one that could literally bring the city to its knees.

    I hope the reality of our collective responsibility to each other is brought home by this. We need to be at our most creative and compassionate right now, and willing to try new things quickly in ways that will drive this virus away and allow for new normals in education, business and government. But there is no room for dismissing the threat this virus poses to all of us. We’re staring widespread death and illness in the face. We must not concede to that fate.

  192. BUSD better figure out a way to have the students logged in all day and engaged for the full day, in contrast to what happened this spring semester which was a complete failure and a complete waste of time. This is SO disappointing to say the least!

  193. So am I getting paid to homeschool my kids… of right no. I’m suppose to do my job AND educate my kids. And if I protest I’m trying to kill grandma. And I’m actually one of the lucky ones that doesn’t need to find extra money for daycare because I have the luxury of working from home. I’m sure I will get to hear all about the brave teachers will provide maybe 3 hours of instruction and than spend the rest of their time “adapting”. Adapting is hard. My company had a day to figure out how to run seamlessly remotely but what do I know. The patience of working parents is running very, very thin.