Alameda County gives OK for elementary schools to reopen; PUSD responds

Julie Reichle

Elementary students will be among first to return to a classroom setting.

PUSD Superintendent Randall Booker sent the following email to families on Friday, Oct. 2, outlining plans for a phased-in approach to reopening schools based on the most recent Alameda County Public Health Department recommendation that elementary schools may start to reopen starting Oct. 13. PUSD sent a notice Friday evening that a special board meeting will be held on October 6 at 6 p.m. to discuss the plan. (See agenda here.)

PUSD Families,

On October 1st, the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) issued a press release stating that:

“On September 22, Alameda County moved into the Red Tier of the State’s color-coded four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Local Health Officers may proceed more cautiously than the State allows, and Alameda County public health officials have used this time to carefully consider the risks associated with activities that may be permitted to open or expand under the Red Tier.”

“As COVID-19 still poses substantial risk to Alameda County residents and workers, the following updates to the Health Officer Orders represent a phased approach to opening to avoid dramatic increases in disease transmission and re-closures.”

Starting October 13, Elementary Schools May Reopen
The State allows schools to open for in-person learning for counties in the Red. As of October 13, elementary schools (transitional kindergarten-6 th grade) that complete a COVID-19 health and safety reopening plan are permitted to open. The decision and timing of when to open rests with each school and school district, and schools are not required to open if not ready.”

“Elementary schools are required to post their reopening plans to their school or school district website and submit their plan to the Alameda County Office of Education. Schools planning to open must notify the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency of their decision and provide the website link to their plan.”

“Alameda County will consider permitting middle and high school students to return to in-person education in four to twelve-week phases as local disease conditions allow. This phased approach will allow us to gauge the impact of elementary school re-opening on transmission.”

You can also read the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools press release in response to ACDPH’s new directives for reopening schools.

This is both exciting and challenging news, as there are many steps ahead of us to ensure a phased-in and thoughtful reopening process for PUSD.  We will schedule a Special Board Meeting during the week of Oct. 5th to publicly discuss reopening steps as it first applies to our elementary students and staff.  Based on the press release from ACPHD, it is likely that Piedmont Middle School will not be permitted to reopen until sometime in November, and Piedmont and Millennium High Schools until early 2021.  I will communicate timelines and action steps as we all learn more from ACPHD.

At next week’s Special Board Meeting, I will recommend a phased-in approach to reopening our elementary schools that allows district and site staff to appropriately plan and adjust as necessary to an extremely new way of on-site teaching and learning.  I am grateful for our teachers and staff as we have all strived to prepare for a return.  I will be recommending to the Board of Education that we set dates for a return to in-person education in intervals, as allowed by the ACDPH, Alameda County Office of Education, and our Board of Education.  These intervals will be spaced apart on the calendar to allow the district to make adjustments to our processes and procedures as we learn from our in-person learning experiences.  Specific dates for these phases will be discussed during next week’s Special Board Meeting.

Phase 1:  Select Special Education/Acute Learners
Phase 2:  Transitional Kindergarten – 2nd grade
Phase 3:  3rd grade – 5th grade
Phase 4:  6th grade
Phase 5:  7th grade
Phase 6:  8th grade
Phase 7:  9th/10th grades
Phase 8:  11th/12th grades

In the next week, the District will communicate with staff and families regarding those who choose not to return to in-person learning due to pre-existing health issues and/or safety concerns.  We will communicate the District’s plans for continued Distance Learning under an in-person environment.  Families will have a choice as to whether or not to send their child(ren) back to campuses or continue in a Distance Learning environment.  All PUSD Staff are afforded choices based on specific agreements in the APT/PUSD MOU and the CSEA/PUSD MOU.

There is much to address over the next few weeks as we look forward to a return to in-person learning.  The District will continue to provide updates to staff and families as we learn more and as specific decisions are made.

I want to thank everyone for their patience and flexibility as we continue our planning for a return to in-person learning.

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