Distance learning to continue until at least October 9th

Superintendent’s Recommendation to Begin the School Year in Distance Learning / Recomendación del Superintendente para Comenzar el Año Escolar en Distance Learning (Aprendizaje a Distancia)

July 13, 2020

Dear Berkeley Community,

I’m writing to let you know that at the Wednesday, July 15 School Board meeting I will be making the recommendation that we begin our school year in Distance Learning. I do so knowing that what we all really want is to have our students back in school, together.  As soon as it is possible to have students and staff safely return to school campuses, we will make that happen.

As you may know, school districts across the State are making a similar decision to begin in Distance Learning, but as your Superintendent, this is a heartbreaking recommendation to make.  I want so much more for our students than the slow, measured re-opening that I am describing below. I know that this will come as difficult news for many families and students, and particularly for parents and guardians of younger children, as distance learning places them in a very challenging predicament. We are making progress toward a phased reopening which could prioritize younger students and others who have specific needs for support, but as we take stock of our full situation – and take seriously the alarming rise in COVID-19 in our region – I know that this delay is the responsible thing to do. I still see that a return to on-campus learning is possible; I just don’t see that doing so on August 17th is feasible.

We have been working hard all summer, preparing our facilities and programs to support best practices such as social distancing, handwashing, and smaller cohorts of students. At the same time, we have been monitoring local conditions with concern. Among our earliest criteria for opening campuses on August 17 is a decrease in hospitalizations over 14 days, whereas currently, we are seeing a 14 day rise. Efficient testing and contact tracing are additional criteria, and while testing is becoming more widely available, delays in appointments and results pose a significant concern.