School Board unanimously votes to close all PUSD schools to mitigate COVID-19 spread

At an emergency PUSD School Board session held Friday, Mar. 13, board members unanimously voted to approve a recommendation by Supt. Randy Booker that all PUSD schools be closed from Mar. 16 – Mar. 27 in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Public school districts in Oakland, Marin, San Mateo, and other Bay Area cities and counties announced similar measures Friday, following San Francisco,West Contra Costa County, and Berkeley earlier in the week.

Although schools will be closed, instruction will continue online. Families should expect emails from their individual school sites outlining steps the District will take to deliver curriculum next Tuesday, Mar. 17, Booker told the board.

During the closure, Booker noted that families should continue to report illnesses via their school attendance lines so that the district can track and be properly prepared for returning to normal operations. “Having accurate data to review about student and staff illness will help the district figure out when to re-open.”

School facilities such as Witter Field and school playfields, will also be closed, according to Booker. (Whether or not students can — or should — gather at these sites is not something the District can monitor, he noted.)

Booker told the Board that school construction will continue as planned even if schools close, and no delays are expected.

Booker also said at this time the state won’t require more instructional minutes, so it is unlikely closures will extend into June. Status of CAASPP testing still unknown. The constantly-changing news means it is also not possible to know if an extension might be necessary or how it would affect Spring Break.

Speaking to the Board, APT President Gabe Kessler noted that because teachers have increased risk and exposure, “my colleagues and I are all thankful this decision is being made.” Teachers will be meeting in school on Monday, Mar. 16 to collaborate on how their curriculum delivery / distance learning plans.

During public comment, several speakers took the Board to task for moving too quickly to close schools when there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students or staff. In response, Board member Cory Smegal noted that until the last several days she would have agreed, but that the fluid situation, and learning that Piedmont students sick with high fevers have not been able to be tested because of the lack of tests, made her rethink her position.

Board member Sarah Pearson, who is a medical doctor, noted that the District has been tracking the rapidly changing situation for months — moving as necessary from encouraging good hygiene, to promoting more intense cleaning methods in the classrooms, to the recommendation for closure. “There is still too much unknown about this virus and expert data suggests that we are on the front end of a curve — all experts believe it will get worse before better.”

“This is going to be messy.” said Board member Andrea Swenson. “Please be flexible. We all want the best for our students and staff.”

Information about these latest changes will be conveyed to parents via Schoology, Infinite Campus, and email going forward.

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