Berkeley middle schools, high schools permitted to reopen by creating safety plans

Photo of Martin Luther King Middle School
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According to a city press release, beginning Nov. 9, middle schools and high schools in Berkeley will be able to resume in-person classes if they create specific safety plans that are aligned with city COVID-19 criteria. This will be the first time that students will be able to attend in-person classes in Berkeley since March 17, when shutdowns in the Bay Area began.

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Berkeley middle schools and high schools will be able to open their doors to students, faculty and staff Nov. 9 if they create and post site-specific plans adhering to city criteria to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley health officer, is permitting schools to open, and they are required to use face coverings, enforce social distancing, eliminate gatherings, ensure people stay home when sick and increase hygiene and cleaning, according to a city press release.

The city of Berkeley recognizes that there will inevitably be cases in schools, but safety practices can reduce the spread of COVID-19 before and after people test positive, the press release states. 

“COVID-19 remains a threat, but science, data and the generally good adherence to public health guidance allows the opening of this socioemotional and educational priority for children,” Hernandez said in the press release. “The daily preventive actions people took helped lower case rates. As more public activities open, those actions become even more critical.”

To support school openings, Berkeley’s Public Health Division has created services such as expanding available COVID-19 tests for teachers and staff and requiring school visits from public health staff, according to the press release.

This health order marks the first time students will be able to resume in-person classes in Berkeley since the Bay Area shutdown began March 17, the press release adds.

Paralleling the mandates for elementary school reopenings that began Oct. 13, middle schools and high schools in the city must test all staff and volunteers at least once a month and quickly test and isolate any symptomatic staff and students, the press release states. They must also quarantine individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and follow state requirements on social distancing, according to the press release.

Schools must also designate two or more trained “COVID-19 liaisons” to coordinate with the city on topics pertaining to the coronavirus, the press release adds. Parents choosing to send their children back to school should consider giving up less important activities, such as play dates and parties, to minimize the risk of transmission. 

Habitually engaging in safe, preventative actions and being selective about the activities people prioritize and give up “helps maintain options for public activities, including critical needs such as schools,” Hernandez said in the press release.

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Maxine Mouly is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.