2021-22 School Year - Will Berkeley/Albany Schools Reopen?

A heartfelt hello to all parents of kids struggling with remote learning. As we head into 2021, I have accepted that, more likely than not, our middle schooler will not see the inside of a classroom this school year. So I am looking forward to a return during the 2021-22 school year. That said, there's already talk that, even with the potential for teachers to get vaccinated by fall 2021, there still may be resistance to returning kids to the classroom, particularly within the Berkeley Unified and the Albany Unified school districts (both are options for us). We are getting pretty much zero news coverage on the road to returning to in-person learning, and what the districts say and what they do don't always match up. So it's hard to know whether what I'm hearing on the street regarding the fall is pure conjecture, or if there's some factual basis to these rumors. Our child simply cannot endure another year of remote learning, so if there's a chance that the fall will be anything less than full-time in the classroom, we need to plan for something different (up to and including just moving). Participating in the re-opening process has proven to be futile, so I'm just looking for some fact-based predictions on what is likely to happen in the fall assuming that teachers and school staff will be able to get vaccinated.

Parent of a sad teen.

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I'm sorry your teen is sad. The whole world is sad. Schools will reopen when the region's covid cases and icu bed capacity decline to the state-mandated levels. The thing is, no one knows when that will be. School districts cannot predict what the virus will do. What if the vaccine is not effective against any unknown future virus mutations? The world is done with covid but covid is not done with the world. You can follow the Alameda County Covid web page, https://covid-19.acgov.org/data.page, to see when cases are declining, but really I feel that the best we can do is change our mindset to find contentment in the current situation, because the old normal may be years away.

There is no plan in place to reopen schools for in person learning in the fall.  If there is no planning, it will not happen.

We know a kid that is currently working on a degree in mechatronics from a CSU campus.  He is in his final year, but his education is completely on hold.  The coursework he needs to complete his degree is all hands-on labs.  There is no plan for the lab coursework to re-start — not even in Fall 2021.  He is stuck.  There is no option for remote learning in his degree, yet there isn’t any plan to try to get the classes going again.   Honestly, I would expect this type of program to be a bellweather.  If coursework that can’t be done remotely can’t restart in person, what hope is there for virtual coursework to switch to in person?

Unless there are concrete plans for reopening, schools will remain virtual.  That is the nature of inertia.  

I don’t want to move, but I just don’t see another way.  It is heartbreaking.

Why not look into schools that *will* have on-campus teaching and learning and not resign to other people's judgements of safety? My 8th grader (now in public school) will go, with financial aid, of course, to a high school that will be open for the most part. Independent schools are just that, independent. You, the family, play a role in the decision making so if you are comfortable sending your child to school (statistically, schools are of the safest places) then pursue that. Hope things work out. My son is sad, too, being out of school. 

I don’t think anyone has a real answer to this right now.  My best guess is that even if the school year starts online or hybrid with only a few hours a week at school, it will return to full time sometime during the first semester. But this is conjecture on my part. Some Bay Area school districts, especially in Marin, have been much more aggressive in their opening plans and are more likely to fully reopen sooner. A number of them have hybrid in-person programs running through 6th grade right now and will open the rest of the grades hybrid 2-3 weeks after the county leaves the purple tier. I expect they will be quicker to take each step and will reopen full time school before inner East Bay and SF districts.  Many districts are facing declining enrollment and budget shortfalls, making it easier to get out-of-district transfers. If you are open to a commute, one of these districts might offer a public school option for your son without a move. 

Hello dear parent,

we are in the same situation, our sophomore is not doing well in virtual schooling  to the point he is not logging to class.  On the other hand, he is somehow busy with other stuff (building a model car, want to continue piano classes etc).  He lost motivation  enroll in virtual schooling,  and going back to classroom setting is essential and important.  I believe the percentage of students struggling is higher that what is REPORTED  by schools district. 

The last I heard,  the issue is Teachers Unions and teachers themselves hesitant of returning to classroom teaching.  I don't understand the rational as they are on the priority for vaccine.  I work with homeless individual and I go to work, there is an ethical responsibility I need to be present in order to conduct my job and help people in need ( not such as thing as let's talk over the screen). I guess the same for nurses, doctors, people working at groceries stores etc.    

Once receiving a vaccine, I don't think teachers should have option to remain at home, otherwise they might need to consider career change.  I do support PPE and also a gradual process of bringing students back (with those struggling to be first on line fo classroom education).   For this year, students will remain virtual but I am hoping next year teachers should and must be teaching in classroom. This year plan to return is on hold and the Teachers Union don't come with an agreement.

I believe those students doing great and wanting to continue virtual should be honored.  Parents with hesitation should keep students at home AND those students struggling should be giving the option and the right of returning to school. 

Again,  the only barrier in the way is the  Teachers Unions and not  addressing the matter from a proactive approach but more political non sense agenda. 

I am so sorry to hear your struggle, and unfortunately I don't have an answer for you.  Our family is struggling, too.  We have 2 kids at Berkeley High.  This school year has been very disappointing--not as bad as the disaster of last spring but still bad.  Our kids gets 12 hours of instruction time per week vs. the 30 hours they got before March.  That means 40% of the instruction time they are supposed to receive.  With such a limited amount of school, they are not learning much and they have a lot of free time.  They fill the free time primarily by watching You Tube and playing video games.  We work with them so they read and exercise and do chores, but there is only so much that parents can do.  We counted on the schools to provide the bulk of their education, and it's just not happening. 

Until March, we loved Berkeley schools and the teachers.  Since March,  I am disappointed and frustrated with Berkeley schools and the teachers.  The teachers are getting 100% of their pay while providing 40% of their product.  I don't know any other job that offers that kind of a deal, certainly not mine.  We have gotten limited communication from the district about why they structured distance learning with only 40% of the instructional time.  We have also gotten limited communication on what the plan and criteria are for getting the kids back in school full time.  The limited communication has also been pretty defensive like there's something wrong with parents for wanting their kids to get a good education.   BUSD talks a lot about equity, but equity is not giving all the students a 40% education.

I was going through the same decision-making process in September. We decided that given the complete absence of leadership on the school reopenings (both BUSD and the Berkeley Mayor/health department who have been trying to put this entirely on BUSD, same for CA political leadership more generally trying to put this on individual districts and avoid responsibility) we would make alternate plans. For obvious reasons, it's clear now that was the right choice. Despite the crazy commute and other logistical issues, it is so worth it to see the difference it makes for our kids. We are likely to move if things don't change soon in BUSD. 

Every data point available shows that BUSD still has no concrete plan for reopening, even for the youngest students. Also, according to the BUSD Superintendent the teachers union leadership refuses to accept state and county public health guidelines as the proper framework for discussion ("When Elementary Schools Should Reopen. The district believes that we should reopen when the community transmission rate returns to the Red Tier, in keeping with state and county public health guidelines. BFT has proposed that school reopening would begin when the City is in the Orange Tier, and that schools would close again if the City returns to the Red Tier.") I'm optimistic that a Biden administration will provide more support, but there remains a glaring lack of meaningful local and CA leadership on this issue.  

I think you can see where I'm going. I suggest you move your child now if at all possible, and wouldn't plan for any fall reopening. Many teachers, parents and children in BUSD are burnt out and miserable. Other schools are reopening without issue, yet BUSD is unable or unwilling to find a way to safely reopen for those who want/need in-person instruction. I wouldn't count on changes until we see someone step up to provide meaningful leadership. (Note that many parents have already made alternate plans for this year. They may not engage until this summer when it becomes clear there is an issue for fall. By then it will be too late. A similar dynamic happened at the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year.)

Check out busdparents.com, a group of parents who are advocating for safe re-opening. I agree with you that based on the Teachers Union requests, it's highly unlikely that there will be 5 day in person school in fall. Consider joining the next BUSD Board Meeting and speaking up during public comment, demand that they share their plan for 2021. You are not alone, there are so many families who are thinking of moving. Let's amplify our voice and put pressure on BUSD leadership and Teachers Union. This is not right. 

I believe I’m in the minority, but my son, who is a sophomore at Berkeley High, is thriving academically this year.  While he very much misses his sports team and just being part of the hustle and bustle on campus, he is LEARNING.  He’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, getting his work done, and attending classes.  He is also happy to have a lot of spare time to work out and play video games, but he isn’t having to deal with all the time-wasting discipline problems that plague classrooms at BHS.  When class is in session on Zoom, the teachers teach, and the students listen and engage. Someone in another post compared the number of hours spent now in Zooms vs the number of hours spent in class normally, but they’re apples and oranges.  So much of class time is wasted in a normal class setting.  Just another point of view...  F rom a parent whose older two also went to BHS.  

OUSD is taking their time as well. I would like to think that if the teachers are vaccinated, and the high-risk and normal risk adults in the home are also vaccinated, there is no reason not to return to school. Health care providers, grocery employees, bus drivers, etc. have had to work the entire time. They all wear PPE (masks and face shields are super effective, as seen by the very low rates of transmission in health care clinics). They have time to find a way to make classes smaller if needed so they can space students 6 feet apart, but with a face shield and mask, the risk of transmission is incredibly low, and there is no reason schools should not start in person this fall. The delay has wreaked havoc on so many families across the board. One year of remote learning is enough!

I have two children in BUSD and of course I want them back in the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so. This year has been devastating to so many families. But I think it is unfair to blame the teachers or claim that they  “are getting 100% of their pay while providing 40% of their product.” Teachers and administrators at my children’s middle and high schools have worked extremely hard to learn how to teach online, become familiar with new technologies, adapt their curriculum plans, try to help all students especially those struggling, and to provide a steady, stable environment for their kids, all via a computer screen. It is of course not easy for students but it can’t be easy for teachers either, and I don’t think blaming them for the situation is fair or compassionate. This situation sucks and there is no easy solution for anyone.