Unanimous decision extends Berkeley school district closure until end of school year

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During Wednesday’s Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board meeting, members came to a unanimous decision to extend school closures until June 15.

BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens said the decision to close schools until the end of the school year was influenced by the Alameda County Office of Educations recommendation to extend school closures for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, along with scientific data.

“All of that alignment of messages give a very clear signal to all of us about the seriousness of keeping our schools closed through the rest of the year,” Stephens said at the meeting.

Stephens’ recommendation comes with a caveat: The board may revisit the decision to close if the Alameda County public health officer indicates that schools may reopen before June 15. Stephens, however, does not believe schools will reopen this school year.

Looking forward to a possible reopening for the fall 2020 semester, Stephens presented the San Diego County Office of Education‘s Recovery Plan Assumptions and Recommendations.

“When taken together — the guidance from the county office of San Diego — this certainly gives school organizations reason to pause for thought,” Stephens said at the meeting. “While this is not a definite plan, … it is to date, I think, one of many very thoughtful responses to the governor’s road map to opening.”

San Diego’s plan includes ideas to maintain social distancing while having some in-person instruction, such as altering bell schedules, staggering start times and implementing a block schedule in secondary schools to decrease student movement and cross-contamination among classrooms.

Board member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler expressed concern that some districts in the county may be creating better distance learning plans, attracting parents to move their children to those districts.

Leyva-Cutler suggested a special meeting for district board presidents and superintendents to discuss distance learning plans to “show parents there’s some uniformity between districts.”

“Every school district, unfortunately, is working on their own … when collectively, we could be building a better plan,” Leyva-Cutler said at the meeting.

Julie Madsen is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.