PUSD signals fall classes will not be business as usual

In his weekly message to the PUSD community on April 23, Superintendent Randy Booker gave some hints as to how local schools might open in the fall, noting that everything was dependent on guidance from state and county officials around physical distancing protocols and other health and safety measures. Some of those plans, as Governor Gavin Newsom outlined on April 14, may involve a literal redrawing of floor plans in schools and on playgrounds to promote physical distance as well as the possibility of more closures.

Schools that have re-opened in Europe and elsewhere are trying a variety of tactics, including staggered schedules for classes and recess, smaller class sizes, continued distance learning, and more. (See NPR’s April 24 story: 9 Ways Schools Will Look Different When (And If) They Reopen).

From Supt. Booker’s message:

“Piedmont administrators, along with Superintendents across Alameda County are following Gov. Newsom’s guidance closely and are working together to discuss how to best reopen schools in August under the guidelines from the Health Department and the Governor’s Office.  We are eagerly expecting more information from the county and state officials to guide our planning.  I will be sure to pass along any information we learn.

Here are the main points of the guidelines Gov. Newsom announced last week, with his exact words in quotation marks:

  1. Expand testing “to appropriately address the tracing and tracking of individuals – the isolation and the quarantine of individuals using the technology and using a workforce that needs to be trained in an infrastructure that needs to be in place in order to begin the process to transition.”
  2. Continue to protect “the most vulnerable populations in the state of California from infection and spread,” primarily seniors, the homeless and people with immune deficiencies.
  3. Provide needed PPE and other resources to hospitals and their staffs and prepare for potential surges in COVID-19 cases “as we adopt new strategies [and] we loosen the stay-at-home orders. … We need to make sure that that infrastructure is protected and to make sure that hose assets are well prepared.”
  4. Continue to work closely with academics and research partners “as we bridge, ultimately, toward the herd immunity and a vaccine within, we hope, the next year or so.”
  5. Redrawing floor plans in businesses, schools, playgrounds and other facilities – “large and small, public and private” — to incorporate safe physical distancing.
  6. Maintain the capacity to “reinstate more vigorous controls” – to “turn on that faucet again,” as Newsome put it. That process, he said, “will perhaps be the most challenging if indeed we lean in but we have to then lean back out as we toggle from stricter to looser interventions, back and forth, as things change [and] data comes in.”

Here is Gov. Newsom’s full address and news conference:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIxmV5a_2AA&feature=youtu.be

What we are really looking for from county and state officials is to learn what physical distancing protocols will be expected for schools at the beginning of the fall semester.  These protocols will define our planning and the educational landscape we provide for students, staff, and families.  Governor Newsom, in his address, indicated that we will need to “redraw our floor plans”.  I take this to mean that the fall semester will not be business as usual and we will need to initiate systems and protocols that foster social distancing, the use of PPE, and pre-screening of students and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 to just name a few.  We will also need to be prepared for the real possibility of school closures to occur again if required by the health department and Governor’s Office.

There is much planning ahead of us.  We will continue to lean on our partnerships to develop an education system that promotes student/staff health and a continuance of learning.”

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