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BUSD: Optimism, Even in Uncertain Times

Dear BUSD Community,

On Monday, we begin another school year together, and we do so in an environment of great uncertainty. We wish we could tell you more about when and how schools will reopen in person, but there are just too many unknowns right now.

Still, we view Monday’s start to the school year with optimism, and are excited to see so much energy from our teachers as they prepare to welcome their students. This year’s work brings a well-organized schedule for distance learning, meaningful revisions to the curriculum, more professional development for our staff, and increased attention to the importance of small group support and family communication.

As we launch, let’s all note that we have accomplished so much since March, thanks to our caring staff and community. We have served tens of thousands of meals without interruption, distributed thousands of laptops to families, and shared hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations with Berkeley residents who need it most. Over the summer, we have made significant changes to the Distance Learning experience incorporating thoughtful feedback from parents/guardians, students, and staff. We will continue to support our families with essential needs – please see our updated Nutrition Services information here.

As I write today, BUSD continues to receive evolving public health guidance about the risks associated with on-campus activity, and this guidance is developing to be more restrictive. In fact, as of last night, we have been told we can only conduct our Elementary School Family Meetings remotely. This is a huge disappointment to the principals, teaching staff and families who were really looking forward to the possibility of brief, socially distanced meetings on campus. Our principals and our risk manager are now developing revised protocols for picking up books and supplies, checking out library books, and more. Your school principal will continue to communicate with you about what this will look like at each school site.

Together, we are now watching as schools around the country are attempting a variety of strategies to reopen, and we are witnessing how difficult this is. When our local health conditions improve, BUSD is committed to continued partnership with our local health officers, the use of accurate data and informed scientific perspective, and a measured, cautious approach to reopening.

The Board of Education and all our staff recognize that many Berkeley families are in a near-impossible situation. We recognize that Distance Learning is not the same as in-person school, and that it does not address the needs of caregivers who must work during school hours. We are still trying to find solutions that will address the very real childcare needs, and we are continuing to work on plans for an eventual return to at least some in-person learning, so that when local conditions and health orders permit, we will be able to.

As so many Berkeley families have shared with me since March, we are in this together. While we are deeply disappointed that health orders do not permit us to be on-campus, I hope we adults can all still convey to our children that this return to school is an opportunity to reconnect with teachers and friends, and even at a distance, we have much to be grateful for and excited about. My very best to you and your children for an engaging and safe start to the school year.

Brent Stephens

Dear BUSD Community,

On Monday, we begin another school year together, and we do so in an environment of great uncertainty. We wish we could tell you more about when and how schools will reopen in person, but there are just too many unknowns right now.

Still, we view Monday’s start to the school year with optimism, and are excited to see so much energy from our teachers as they prepare to welcome their students. This year’s work brings a well-organized schedule for distance learning, meaningful revisions to the curriculum, more professional development for our staff, and increased attention to the importance of small group support and family communication.

As we launch, let’s all note that we have accomplished so much since March, thanks to our caring staff and community. We have served tens of thousands of meals without interruption, distributed thousands of laptops to families, and shared hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations with Berkeley residents who need it most. Over the summer, we have made significant changes to the Distance Learning experience incorporating thoughtful feedback from parents/guardians, students, and staff. We will continue to support our families with essential needs – please see our updated Nutrition Services information here.

As I write today, BUSD continues to receive evolving public health guidance about the risks associated with on-campus activity, and this guidance is developing to be more restrictive. In fact, as of last night, we have been told we can only conduct our Elementary School Family Meetings remotely. This is a huge disappointment to the principals, teaching staff and families who were really looking forward to the possibility of brief, socially distanced meetings on campus. Our principals and our risk manager are now developing revised protocols for picking up books and supplies, checking out library books, and more. Your school principal will continue to communicate with you about what this will look like at each school site.

Together, we are now watching as schools around the country are attempting a variety of strategies to reopen, and we are witnessing how difficult this is. When our local health conditions improve, BUSD is committed to continued partnership with our local health officers, the use of accurate data and informed scientific perspective, and a measured, cautious approach to reopening.

The Board of Education and all our staff recognize that many Berkeley families are in a near-impossible situation. We recognize that Distance Learning is not the same as in-person school, and that it does not address the needs of caregivers who must work during school hours. We are still trying to find solutions that will address the very real childcare needs, and we are continuing to work on plans for an eventual return to at least some in-person learning, so that when local conditions and health orders permit, we will be able to.

As so many Berkeley families have shared with me since March, we are in this together. While we are deeply disappointed that health orders do not permit us to be on-campus, I hope we adults can all still convey to our children that this return to school is an opportunity to reconnect with teachers and friends, and even at a distance, we have much to be grateful for and excited about. My very best to you and your children for an engaging and safe start to the school year.

Brent Stephens

Superintendent

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