PUSD says elementary schools could reopen as soon as Feb. 9

Havens Elementary School

In advance of Wednesday night’s school board meeting, PUSD Superintendent Randy Booker emailed district families on Monday afternoon to provide an update on what he called “a safe and phased-in reopening of our elementary program as early as February 9th, pending approval by the County Health Department.”  

In the letter Booker highlighted the following:

  • The Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan permits elementary students to return to campus when county-level Covid infection rates drop below 25 cases per 100,000 for five consecutive days; for secondary students, the rate must be less than seven cases per 100,000. 
  • Under the governor’s plan, PUSD is required to update its existing COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP), including protocols for student testing. (At the Jan. 13 school board meeting, Booker noted the district has had a testing plan in place for teachers and staff, but the new requirement for students would require more research and work to implement, a process that the letter states is underway.)
  • PUSD will submit its updated reopening safety plan on February 1, and if the plan is accepted and infection rates are in the safe zone, students will be phased back into Beach, Havens, and Wildwood as early as Feb. 9 assuming case rates in the county have dropped.

Booker’s letter also said he “remains confident we can reopen our middle and high schools when permitted by the county public health department.” Guidelines from the state and county say K-6 schools may reopen when the adjusted daily case rate is less than 25 per 100,000 and stays that way for five days, while upper schools may reopen after five days in the Red Tier, a case rate between 4 and 7 per 100,000. On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the rate stood at 28.9 per 100,000. Middle and upper school families have not received information on plans for upper school reopening as of Tuesday.

Parents call for action

The ongoing push here and in other California cities over reopening schools was given fresh momentum today when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a paper saying there was scant evidence of COVID-19 transmission in schools practicing good health and safety protocols. (The review did note, however, that indoor sports posed a concern.) 

On Monday, a coalition of parents across California launched a website and initiative — Open Schools California — calling for state and local officials to reopen schools. “Keeping schools closed poses a major risk to kids’ health and wellbeing,” said Megan Bacigalupi, a parent of two elementary school children in Oakland and advocate with Open Schools California.

“It is wholly unfair and inequitable to make children pay the biggest price during this pandemic when medical professionals agree that schools can be safely reopened for in-person education for both teachers and students.”

Megan Bacigalupi, Oakland parent
Locally, parents are organizing to pressure PUSD and APT to move forward with reopening plans.

Apart from small groups of acute learners, Piedmont schools have been closed to in-person learning since March 16, and frustration with what some consider foot-dragging by the district has been building for months. Through a Facebook group and ad hoc activities, parents and kids have been contacting not only PUSD and the Piedmont School Board, but also the Alameda County Supervisors, the Alameda County Public Health Department, and Governor Newsom. The parents see the situation as an educational and mental health crisis among children within Piedmont and the state at large.

The local group, Advocates for Full-Time In-Person Piedmont Schools, has joined the #OpenSchoolsCA movement. Piedmont parent Laura Maestrelli sums up the local perspective, “PUSD students have not stepped inside a classroom in 318 days. Families are leaving the district because our kids are in trouble academically and emotionally.”

“It’s time for PUSD to get our kids back in the classroom.”

Laura Maestrelli, Piedmont parent

The Jan. 27 school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. View the agenda and get meeting login instructions HERE.

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