BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) – Berkeley public schools are getting ready to reopen gradually as COVID-19 cases remain low.
Three elementary schools will reopen for a limited number of cohorts on Monday. These will be fixed cohort groups who will attend everyday, according to officials.
The district’s hybrid model – where students are likely to alternate between attending school and doing distance learning in half-size classes – is targeted for January.
Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Jefferson Elementary Schools in Berkeley will welcome students back in small groups.
“We’re talking probably about 18 – 24 students,” Superintendent Brent Stephens said.
That’s up to 24 students on each campus – phase one of reopening elementary schools for in-person learning.
Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Brent Stephens says the remaining 8 schools from grades pre-k to 5 that remain closed will reopen on January 13th.
Students will be split into two groups that alternate between distance learning and on-campus learning.
Stephens says there are mixed reviews.
“Some families are declining the offer even though we selected their family because we thought that they can use the on-campus support, there’s still a great deal of anxiety and worry among families,” Stephens said.
The district completed a safety plan that includes modifications to facilities and face-covering requirements.
“We’ve having our employees COVID tested, we’re reaching out to families and offering them how to stay safe when they’re on campuses,” Stephens said.
The district is working closely with Berkeley’s Public Health Department.
For families with children returning to school, it is advised to consider limiting other public activities to lower exposure.
“As more activities open up, the pressure is put on the individual to take on individual actions to prevent to lower their own risk which really accumulates throughout our community to lower the risk for everybody,” Matthai Chakko said.
Public Health Spokesperson Matthai Chakko says elementary students are top priority to get back in the classrooms safely.
“We knew that younger kids were struggling much more with online learning and distance learning so making that possible was a priority. Older kids can adapt better to the technology,” Chakko said.
As for the older kids, last week Alameda County gave school districts permission to reopen campuses on November 9th.
The city of Berkeley that has its own health department is in the orange tier of the state’s COVID status. Indicating the community has a moderate spread of the virus.
Upper-level campuses will reduce to 50 percent but the district does not yet have a model to accomplish that for larger facilities.
At this time there is no set target date for when middle and high schools will begin in-person learning. School officials say it could take weeks or months to come up with a plan to reopen.