King FLASH - Important Message from Superintendent

Our Schools Are Staying Open

January 8, 2022

Dear BUSD Community -

As I write to you today, I imagine your family in your home, wondering at this moment in the Omicron surge about the stability of your child’s school experience, worrying about safety, concerned about this coming month. It’s with this image that I write to share an update on how our schools are doing so far this week, what we’re planning to confront this surge, and to reassure you of our absolute commitment to keep our schools open and as safe as possible.

COVID Transmissions So Far

At Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, I shared this comprehensive snapshot of COVID case rates in our schools, and the results of the four different COVID testing strategies we’ve employed this week to find COVID and implement COVID isolation, testing, and communication practices. In the presentation, you’ll find a wide range of data about COVID cases, as well as student and staff absence rates. You can find more information on COVID cases in our schools at our BUSD COVID Case Dashboard, and you can read more about Berkeley families’ amazing participation in at-home testing in this article in TIME magazine from Thursday.

Staffing Concerns and Our District’s Response

In the national media, there are many reports from school districts, airlines, restaurants, and other sectors that are experiencing severe staffing shortages as a result of the Omicron surge. BUSD is also experiencing a similar shortage, and we are enacting plans to send all our district office certificated staff - about 30 Teachers on Special Assignment and administrators in total - to support our schools. This is very similar to steps we took in April of last year to reopen our schools, and I’m optimistic that these additional staff will contribute to our community’s goal of keeping schools open.

As one consequence of this step, I anticipate that district-level programs and committees will pause until this surge has passed so that our staff can stay focused on keeping our schools open safely.

Working Together to Stop the Spread

There are a number of important steps that I ask your family to follow - actions that are especially important right now.

  • Get your child and loved ones vaccinated, and get the booster shot for all who are eligible

  • Please keep your child home if they have any COVID-19 symptom at all

  • Seek BUSD or other testing if you believe your child has been in close contact with someone with COVID or has COVID symptoms. BUSD is offering rapid testing for students and staff in the back parking lot of Berkeley Adult School (at the Curtis St. entrance) between 9:00 - 4:30 on Mondays-Fridays. This free testing option will remain available through the course of the Omicron surge, and no appointments are necessary. Regrettably, testing for parents is not available.

  • Continue to talk with your child about the importance of staying masked indoors and outdoors

Plans for Increased COVID Testing

Berkeley should be proud of the comprehensive testing program we have built, with strategies for on-campus surveillance testing, modified quarantine testing, on-demand testing at Berkeley Adult School, and home testing over the Winter Break.

In response to Omicron, we are quickly working to scale up this testing with the following additional steps:

  • Expansion of the Grade 6 Surveillance Testing to include seventh and eighth graders

  • Distribution of at-home test kits to Pre-K families

New California Guidelines: Shorter Isolation and Test-To-Return for Student With COVID-19

Yesterday, the City of Berkeley issued a new Public Health Order that aligns with recent guidance from the California Department of Public Health and addresses some changes to isolation periods for students and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Summary of New Guidelines:

A COVID positive student may now return to school after Day 5 if:

  1. The student is without a fever for 24 hours (without medication),

  2. Symptoms are not present or are resolving,

  3. And a COVID-19 test on Day 5 or later is negative. A COVID-19 rapid antigen test is the test that is recommended by public health officials for this purpose. These tests are available to all BUSD students at Berkeley Adult School on Mondays-Fridays from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm during this surge period. Students can also test through their healthcare provider or a testing clinic.

How students can return to school from isolation on Day 6.

  • For families with students already under isolation due to a positive COVID test, you can recalculate your student’s return date. Day 0 is the date symptoms began or the date the positive test was taken if your student was without symptoms. You may test your students on Day 5. A student who tests negative and meets the other health criteria can return to BUSD schools on Day 6.

  • For students who learn they are positive from Monday, January 10 forward, you will receive an isolation letter from BUSD that will include your student’s Day 5 test date and Day 6 date return date, if negative.

If your student is unable to test or you choose not to test your student and symptoms are not present or are resolving, isolation can end after Day 10. If fever is present, isolation should be continued until fever resolves (without medication).

Students who return after Day 5 must continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others through Day 10 whether indoors or outdoors.

COVID Booster Shots

Wednesday night, the Board of Education took action to update the definition of “full vaccination” for eligible students included in BUSD’s All-Student Vaccinate or Test Policy to include the COVID-19 booster shot, when a student is eligible to receive the booster. This means that students ages 16+ who are eligible to receive the booster must now do so or test weekly at their school.

The CDC and the FDA have also now authorized COVID-19 booster doses for children ages 12-15. Children become eligible for the booster five months after receiving their second Pfizer dose. Students ages 12+ must also be fully vaccinated, to include the booster, or test weekly, as part of the All-Student Vaccinate or Test Policy. After your child’s booster shot, at whatever point they are eligible, please help us update our vaccination records by emailing vax@berkeley.net.

The Board also established March 7 as the date by which students who are 5-11 must be fully vaccinated (two shots) or begin weekly on-campus testing.

Thank You!

There's really not an adequate way to acknowledge the contributions of our amazing students, families, and staff over the course of this difficult week. Please know that you and your family are making a difference, that district staff see it, and that everyone in BUSD feels genuine gratitude for our families’ solidarity. Let's all hold that clear, motivating vision that our efforts are for the benefit of our young people.

Brent Stephens

Superintendent

Asunto: Nuestras Escuelas Continúan Permaneciendo Abiertas

Enero 7, 2022

Estimada Comunidad en BUSD:

Mientras les escribo el día de hoy, me imagino a su familia en su hogar, preguntándose en este momento acerca de la oleada de Omicron sobre la estabilidad de la experiencia escolar de su hijo, preocupados por la seguridad, preocupados por este mes que se avecina. Es con esta imagen que escribo para compartir una actualización acerca de cómo están nuestras escuelas en lo que va de la semana, lo que estamos planeando para hacer frente a esta oleada, y para asegurarles nuestro compromiso absoluto de mantener nuestras escuelas abiertas y tan seguras como sea posible.

Transmisiones COVID Hasta la Fecha

En la reunión del Board of Education el miércoles por la noche, compartí esto una amplia reseña de las tasas de casos de COVID en nuestras escuelas, y los resultados de las cuatro estrategias diferentes de pruebas de COVID que hemos empleado esta semana para encontrar COVID e implementar aislamiento debido a COVID, pruebas y métodos de comunicación. En la presentación, usted encontrará una amplia gama de datos referente a los casos de COVID, así como los índices de ausencia de los estudiantes y del personal docente. Usted puede encontrar más información referente a los casos de COVID en nuestras escuelas en nuestro Tablero de Casos COVID de BUSD, y usted puede leer más acerca de la increíble participación de las familias de Berkeley en las pruebas realizadas en el hogar (at home testing) en este articulo de la revista TIME del jueves.

Preocupaciones acerca del Personal Docente y la Respuesta de Nuestro Distrito