Berkeley, San Francisco school districts announce full return for fall

photo of berkeley high school
Ryan Kendrick/Staff
Both San Francisco Unified School District and Berkeley Unified School District are planning for all students to attend school five days a week with normal hours starting in the fall. Instruction will be in person, but a remote option will be available for those families that do not feel comfortable with in-person instruction.

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San Francisco Unified School District, or SFUSD, announced Tuesday that it is planning for all students to return to full, in-person instruction Aug. 16. Additionally, in March, Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, announced a full return to in-person learning for the upcoming school year.

Both districts intend for all students to attend school five days a week with a normal schedule. SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick said in an email that families should prepare for the fall semester to be “similar to pre-pandemic” conditions.

“This has been a very hard year for teachers and students,” said Matt Meyer, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers in an email. “Nothing replaces the in-person experience. With vaccines widely available and case rates at all time lows, we expect regular schedules at all grade levels.”

Currently, BUSD and SFUSD are offering limited in-person instruction at all grade levels while enforcing COVID-19 measures for students and staff, such as wearing masks and socially distancing.

In May, eight cases of COVID-19 occurred at BUSD sites, according to the district’s COVID-19 Case Dashboard.

“While school looks a little different, students are at their desks, with their classmates, and learning in the same manner they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott in an email. “Distance learning students continue to receive quality instruction from educators who have mastered the technology and process of delivering engaging instruction remotely.”

SFUSD is not planning for students to undergo regular testing but will continue to enforce mask-wearing until further notice, according to its Return to In-Person Learning Update presented at an SFUSD Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

BUSD Board of Education president Ty Alper said in an email that COVID-19 regulations for Berkeley schools in the fall have not yet been decided and will depend on state and local health directives.

“We have trained COVID-19 liaisons who work with our District Nurse to follow protocols for notification of close contacts, provide isolation and quarantine instructions and notify Public Health in the event of a case so they may begin contact tracing,” McDermott said in the email.

Alper noted that he has heard most parents express excitement about their children returning to the classroom. Meyer added that teachers are “thrilled” to see their students in person while also hoping that the district will follow state health guidelines.

The districts are also working to develop an option for certain families who wish to continue with distance learning, according to Alper and Dudnick.

“We are still working on this in light of evolving guidance from the state about what is allowed and required,” Alper said in the email. “But we expect the vast majority of our students to be in school, in-person, full time in the Fall.”

Contact Emma Taila at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @emmataila.