ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) — Schools in Alameda are looking to reopen elementary schools in a little more than a month from now with a COVID testing program that will test everyone in the district. But teachers and students will not be the first to get tested.

The opening phase started Wednesday with the Alameda Unified School District staffers who have been on campus since the start of the shutdowns: food service workers, custodians and clerical employees.

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“You know, these are some of the unsung heroes,” said Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi. “Folks that have been here since march keeping things flowing we we’re ready when it’s time for kids to come back.”

After this phase, things will ramp up fast. 100 tests today, 500 next week, and ultimately 5,000 students and 600 employees every week in the opening phase.

The district hopes to get elementary school students back in class on March 8th. Scuderi acknowledges it’s a big hill to climb before then.

“We know how to teach kids. We know curriculum and instruction, that’s our purview. But now we’ve had to expand and do some pretty major operations and logistics in the area of public health and testing,” said Scuderi.

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After months away, teachers in the district hope this will help them better reach their students.

Derrick lyons/ encinal high school teacher and coach
38;12 “it’s about getting them to have that motivation, getting them to have that drive because they’ve lost a lot of drive just sitting there looking at the screen all the time. 38:20

Under Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed “Safe Schools For All” plan, districts need to submit a plan to test all students and staff before re-opening their campuses. While some teachers unions have pushed back on his timeline, Newsom says it can be done.

“I believe we can safely reopen public schools to in-person instruction with the appropriate level of safety and support and accountability,” said Newsom at a press conference in Oakland Wednesday.

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After elementary schools are first to open, Alameda Unified says it will look at reopening middle and high schools once the county drops down to the red tier.