Berkeley school district announces tentative agreement on reopening plans

Photo of Oxford Elementary School
Brianna Luna/File
The BUSD Board and BFT announced Tuesday evening that a tentative agreement was reached, which includes a hybrid instruction plan and vaccine distribution.

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Since the physical closure of pre-K-12 schools last spring, discussions on plans to reopen schools revealed dissension as Berkeley community members questioned the safety and health implications of in-person instruction during a pandemic. 

Members of the Berkeley Unified School District Board and Berkeley Federation of Teachers, or BFT, announced Tuesday evening that a tentative agreement was reached. The agreement includes a timeline of a hybrid model of instruction, which will be applied to all grade levels, and the implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols, among others.

“This agreement was the result of many hours of work by teams from the District and BFT, and draws from the input of hundreds of educators as well as the passionate voices of students and families in the BUSD community,” the announcement states.

BFT President Matt Meyer previously told The Daily Californian that BFT proposed on-site staff would transition to in-person instruction once all staff members are vaccinated.

With the new tentative agreement, vaccines will now be provided to all BUSD educators, according to a press release from the city and BUSD.

Starting March 29, those in preschool to second grade will be able to return to district campuses, according to the announcement. Third to ninth grade students can return April 12 with 10th to 12th grade students returning the following Monday.

“Online learning has proven to be a major challenge for kids and parents alike,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in the press release. “We need to get Berkeley’s kids back into the classroom as quickly as possible, and this vaccination plan ensures that the safety of our educators will not be compromised in the process.”

The press release detailed the city’s vaccination plan for BUSD teachers and classified staff. While dependent on state vaccine supply, those who serve preschool to second grade — with the potential for those who serve up to sixth grade — will be able to schedule a vaccination appointment starting next week. 

Other elementary school staff will be able to sign up for phased vaccinations beginning March 1, according to the press release. Secondary school educators will later receive eligibility for appointments on March 8. 

Reliant on the vaccination schedule, the time for hybrid instruction can be postponed or moved up earlier, according to the press release. 

“If the vaccination schedule is delayed, this timeline will be pushed back,” the press release states. “On the other hand, these dates for reopening will be moved up by one week if the City is able to provide all BUSD staff with the Pfizer vaccine, which requires a shorter interval between inoculations.”

Details of the hybrid model will be provided “very soon,” according to the announcement. Once the agreement is ratified and educators are vaccinated, the model will be implemented.

Matt Brown contributed to this report.

Thao Nguyen is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.