Berkeley school district fall 2020 instruction will not return to normal

BUSD town hall
Kaleo Mark/File

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More than 300 community members logged on to the third Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, town hall meeting Wednesday night where it was announced instruction would not return to normal with the upcoming school year.

It has been a little over five weeks since BUSD first transitioned to distance learning. At the town hall, BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens provided updates on participation and steps the school district is taking to prepare for fall 2020. Community members provided their feedback through Thoughtexchange, a crowdsourcing website.

Stephens said at the virtual meeting the school district has no clear guidelines for reopening in the fall. What is clear, according to Stephens, is school will not return normally once the school year begins.

Through Thoughtexchange, community members expressed favorability toward a hybrid learning system in which students would experience a mixture of distance and in-person learning.

Some parents, however, had concerns about whether or not students were capable of adhering to social distancing in schools. Stephens considered the potential impacts of social distancing on students’ emotional well-being.

“None of these scenarios that we’re contemplating is good for community building,” Stephens said at the meeting. “There is a great deal of worry that I have right now, just about the capacity of kids to do this, and the emotional impact of social distancing on young students.”

One possible solution discussed was an increase in outdoor learning. Stephens said he would encourage principals and teachers to contemplate how outdoor teaching could be included in lesson plans if the school district is able to utilize school facilities during the fall.

Stephens also addressed the “scuttle” California Gov. Gavin Newsom created at the end of April when Newsom said schools could possibly open as early as July.

BUSD is not considering reopening its schools on a large scale in July, and is instead planning for the regular August start date.

Community members will have more opportunities in the future to participate and engage in fall planning during a Spanish language town hall meeting May 28, through online surveys and a student town hall meeting.

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