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July 17 COVID-19 Update: AUSD to Open in Distance Learning in August
Posted 7/17/20

July 17, 2020

 

Dear Families,

I am writing today to provide important updates about our re-opening plans this August. My full letter is below, but the primary messages are:

  • Due to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, I have recommended to our Board of Education that we  re-open our schools in a distance program rather than in person.

  • The Governor also announced today that school districts cannot open their schools until their county has been off the monitoring list for 14 days. Alameda County is on the monitoring list.

  • Our calendar for next year has been revised. The first day of school will be August 27, and the last day of school will be June 15.

  • We know you’ll have questions; we’ll be sending more information about this in the coming week.

The Details

During a special board workshop this morning focused on re-opening plans for the fall, our team began the day by recommending that we reconsider our current plans and open with distance learning on August 27. Our continuous monitoring of public health indicators for COVID-19, chief among them county-wide case rates and hospitalization rates, along with ongoing discussions with public health officials and the medical community, led us to this position. This is not an adjustment we are recommending lightly, as we are cognizant of the challenges that opening school without in-person instruction brings about for many families.

Public health indicators as well as an overriding concern for staff and student safety led us to propose these adjustments this morning. Mid-way through the meeting Board President Bonta read aloud a summary of new state guidance issued from Governor Newsom at a mid-day press conference. In that guidance, the Governor announced that California schools would not be opening in person unless their county could meet certain public health criteria, including having been off the state monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. (Currently, 32 of the state's 58 counties – including Alameda County - are on the monitoring list). Clearly as the situation moves forward and the county data changes we will re-evaluate and communicate widely.

Our Board had approved plans for a Flexible Learning Program and Remote Learning Program at its June 23 public meeting. As you know, the Flexible Learning Program is designed to allow students to learn either in-person or virtually, depending on public health conditions and orders. The Remote Learning Program is designed for students who want or need to stay in a stand-alone, remote program for the entire year. With our announcement today, AUSD’s  two instructional programs remain intact. What has changed is that schools will open in the distance phase of the Flexible Learning Program rather than in the in-person phase.

From the beginning of our planning, we have known there was a possibility that we might need to revert to distance learning if public health conditions deteriorated. We have been preparing for this contingency, and the time has come  sooner than we expected.

Additional details about what this means for the opening of school will be forthcoming.  We will actively  watch data trends and emerging research and use the  objective rubrics now issued by the state, as well as and local public health guidance, to assess our readiness to reopen should the situation allow for that.  

We also will look at all possibilities, including potential phased returns (younger students and high needs students first), if public health directives and research indicate we can do that in a fashion that is safe for students and staff alike.

Emerging  research appears to indicate  that young children are less likely to transmit the virus to adults , less likely to get infected with COVID-19, and less likely to develop severe disease if they do get infected, as long as the disease is well controlled in the community. Our hope is that if that research solidifies, and we can get transmission rates controlled across the county, we may be able to open at least our elementary schools sooner rather than later if public health conditions and directives as well as our own safety measures make that an option.

Our commitment is to getting students back to the classroom with their teachers and educators as soon as possible, but we can only do that in a context where the transmission of COVID-19 is better contained than it is at present. 

As a community of educators, all of us here at AUSD know that a decision to not reopen in person carries its own set of short- and long-term risks for many students and families. Given the dangers and complexities of the moment, not reopening in person still appears to be the appropriate decision for now. But please know that we will dig deep as a collective to support students and families who will face additional barriers in light of this decision. We will show up strong this fall for our students irrespective of the formats or modalities in which we are serving them.

The Board of Education will formalize these adjustments and related policy shifts at a special meeting this coming Wednesday evening. We are committed to sending you updates as soon as we have them.

Additional Note: At a second public meeting today, the Board of Education approved a revised 2020-21   calendar. That calendar was negotiated with the Alameda Education Association and ratified by that organization in early July. The Board voted 5-0 to approve the calendar. The primary changes are that the first day is now August 27, the last day is June 15, and the professional development days have been concentrated at the start of the year, so that teachers and principals can prepare new teaching and learning programs. You can see the new calendar here.


 

Stay well,

 

Pasquale Scuderi

 

Superintendent