OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — With nearly 36,000 students and over 2,000 teachers, deciding when to reopen classrooms for in-person learning is a complicated decision for the Oakland Unified School District.
The school district just submitted its COVID-19 Reopening Plan to Alameda County officials, including a date for possibly welcoming students back onto its campuses.
As a best case scenario, some students will be allowed to return in late January, according to the reopening plan.
However, Alameda County recently moved back into the most restrictive purple tier because of a spike in COVID cases.
As long as the county remains in the purple, schools cannot reopen.
“We are really in the worst part of this pandemic since the beginning. If we are still in the purple tier once we hit January, there is a pretty good chance we’re not coming back at that point,” said John Sasaki, director of communications for OUSD.
Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell wrote in a letter to the Oakland community:
“Like all of you, we are painfully aware of our county’s recent move back to the Purple Tier on the State’s COVID-19 criteria system. We have a duty to plan and prepare for when we can. (The Alameda County Office of Education) requires that our Reopening Plan include a target date for reopening and as it stands right now, our plan is to implement our phased reopening starting on Monday, January 25, 2021, if permitted.”
Decisions are being made based on science and safety standards from Alameda County Public Health Guidance, she said.
The Reopening Plan states that students will be brought back to school sites in phases over time. Younger children (between grades T-K and 2nd grade), special education students, and homeless children will be allowed back first.
“The first students to return should be those for whom distance learning is truly not working (students with low attendance, skill regression in special education, etc.),” Johnson-Trammell wrote.
Returning to in-person learning and instruction will not look like regular school.
“I want to make sure everyone understands that this is not simply returning to how things were before the pandemic started,” Johnson-Trammell wrote.
New health and safety procedures will be in place, such as the following:
- Significantly fewer students will be on campus at any given time
- Not all staff members will return for in-person learning and instruction
- In-person learning will still be centered around distance learning because a significant portion of students and teachers will remain in a distance learning environment
“We want to get back as soon as possible. We know kids thrive in class. We know that distance learning has been a challenge for a lot of people. We feel that. But we also know we can’t do it until we can do it safely,” Sasaki said.
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