OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Alameda County health officials announced November 9 as the earliest date that middle and high schools can return to in-class instruction.
The county Public Health Department said individual schools and school districts wishing to resume in-class learning would need to compile a COVID-19 health and safety reopening plan before being allowed to reopen.
Middle and high schools (grades 7-12) must post their reopening plans to their school or school district website and submit them to the county Office of Education, which would share the plans with county health officials.
The decision on a reopening date rests with each school and district, and schools are not required to open, the health department said. Parents of school-aged children were urged to contact their schools directly regarding their plans.
“There are district school boards who have to make these decisions, they have to look at these re-opening plans and have to consider all the stakeholders in their particular districts,” said Alameda County School Superintendent L. Karen Monroe.
Berkeley, which has its own public health department, also targeted a November 9 reopening option to middle and high schools that submit and distribute a reopening plan. Small groups of 8-12 elementary students will get back to the classroom on only four campuses beginning November 9th, but not all the elementary schools and not the older kids.
“We will use January 13th as our target date to reopen elementary schools and we’ll start by opening pre-K, transitional kindergarten, grades kindergarten through two on January 13th,” said Berkeley Unified Schoold District Superintendent Brent Stevens.
The problem of middle and high schoolers constantly moving from classroom to classroom is the challenge in getting students back to high school.
“We’ve got some early thinking about how we might accomplish that, provided that only half of our students come on campus at once – even under those conditions it’s going to be very very difficult to create the kind of health precautions that right now we’re being guided to implement,” Stevens told KPIX 5.
Monroe says school is where kids belong if it can be done safely, particularly for those students who have never logged onto Zoom school and are falling farther behind.
“Really trying to reach out and bring back those students that they have the least contact with, it’s definitely what keeps me up at night,” said Monroe. It’s the kids that we haven’t seen.”
On October 1, Alameda County announced elementary schools (transitional kindergarten to 6th grade) would be allowed to reopen for in-class instruction on or after October 13 under similar documenting requirements. To date, some 58 schools in the county have either opened or submitted a planned reopening date. Only one public school has done so, Mountain House Elementary.
Alameda County is currently in the state’s Orange tier indicating “moderate” COVID-19 risk level, which allows some indoor businesses and activities to open with modifications.
“Although cases are rising elsewhere in the United States, the sustained stability of local COVID-19 metrics in Alameda County and the surrounding Bay Area counties allows us to move to the next phase of school opening for in-person learning,” read a statement from county health department spokesperson Neetu Balram.
“That does not mean all schools have the resources to be ready as soon as opening is permitted,” said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County Interim Health Officer in a prepared statement. “Some schools will need more time and should open classrooms only when they and their school communities are prepared to do so.”
Moss added that if the county begins to see a sustained increase in case rates, currently allowed activities would be restricted once again.
Andria Borba contributed to this report.