Berkeley school district braces for rise in COVID-19 cases following spring break

Photo of a mask on an elementary school desk
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff
Similar to how the district did following winter break, Berkeley Unified School District is taking precautions as its students return from spring break.

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As students return to school after spring break, Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, is preparing for a potential rise in COVID-19 cases.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, California Gov. Gavin Newsom distributed 14.3 million rapid COVID-19 tests to schools across the state. The action was taken as a part of his SMARTER plan, introduced last month with the surge of the omicron variant.

“We know that COVID-19 is still present in our communities, but the SMARTER Plan is how we keep people safe and continue moving the state forward,” Newsom said in a press release.

The SMARTER plan is helping assist BUSD by ensuring that students have the access to rapid home testing kits and other materials, as well as following preventative measures that are listed under the initiative. SMARTER stands for shots, masks, awareness, reading, testing, education and Rx treatments: all things included in the plan.

Schools in California were also supplied with personal protective equipment, receiving hand sanitizers, gloves and 40.6 million masks when students made the return from winter break.

“The State’s support of testing this year, including the coordination of at-home tests during winter and spring breaks and supplying the testing materials and technicians that has allowed us to test our students and staff weekly has been a critical support and certainly helped us keep schools open during the Omicron surge,” said BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott in an email.

As schools across the state receive an influx of rapid tests after spring break, schools within BUSD are making efforts to combat the spread.

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers, or BFT, is made up of various faculty such as teachers, counselors, substitutes and many other people who serve Berkeley public school students. Their goal as a unified community is to improve working and learning conditions for students and faculty.

The BFT has been working to encourage precautions to ensure everyone’s safety upon students’ arrival from break.

“We are happy that all staff and students will be getting rapid home tests,” said BFT President Matt Meyer in an email. “We encourage everyone to take a rapid test before returning to school.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in the city of Berkeley, calculated on a seven-day average, has been decreasing since February, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard shows the average positivity rate, from the week of March 28, is at 1.01% after previously noting the positivity rate of 4.6% for Feb. 5.

Although cases seem to be on a decline, schools in Berkeley are continuing to take precautions.

“We hope all students and staff take proper precautions to minimize risk when on Spring Break,” Meyer said in the email.

Contact Kai Lock at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kaalockk.