September 23, 2020
|Dear Oakland Community,
As you may have heard, Alameda County was recently moved into the state’s Red Tier due an improvement in the County’s Covid indicators. Below, I will review what that means for us as well as the current options that exist for Oakland Unified School District to allow students back on school campuses for in-person instruction or support.
Guided by the 4Ss.
Our approach to reopening schools for in-person learning has never wavered. We are committed to being guided by the 4Ss: Science, Safety, Staff Support, and Student Learning.
A few key points before continuing.
The return to in-person learning is an intense topic for our community. As we saw from our community surveys, some people expressed strong feelings about wanting to begin in-person instruction, while others felt the opposite. In light of that, I want to pause and make a few key points before moving forward:Returning to any aspect of in-person instruction will be done in alignment with public health guidance and in agreement with our labor partners.Even when in-person activities for students are an option, there will also be an option for any student to remain in distance learning all year if that is their family’s preference.
We currently have an agreement about distance learning with the Oakland Education Association (OEA), our teachers union, that runs through December 31, 2020 about distance learning. It is fair to say that most, if not all, instruction for students will likely remain via distance learning at least through December.
We are mindful of the strong opinions within our community. Some families will not consider any in-person options while others are urging our District to provide an opportunity for in-person learning. We empathize with all of our families under these extraordinary circumstances and are working to serve families as best we can given our Covid-19 circumstances.I also know that there are students and families for whom distance learning simply is not working. For these families, distance learning has imposed an intense and sometimes devastating hardship on them.. That is why I believe that we have a moral obligation to investigate every option available to us to provide in-person instruction aligned with state and county educational guidelines and public safety guidance.
The options available to us are limited by the current level of COVID-19 spread in Alameda County.
Just yesterday, Alameda County entered the Red Tier per the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which indicates a decrease in the level of COVID-19 in Alameda County county. In order to consider re-opening for in-classroom instruction, the county must remain in the red tier for two weeks. This does not mean there are any immediate changes for Oakland.
According to Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, Karen Monroe’s statement:“The county public health officer has clarified that schools must continue distance learning until such time that local conditions support in-person learning. The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) has the authority to take a more incremental approach to re-opening in an effort to minimize significant increases in disease transmission, even as the County meets the State’s less restrictive criteria.
ACPHD’s statement Tuesday indicated that it will use the next two weeks (through October 6) to ensure our county metrics remain stable, and will release a phased plan for re-opening that includes schools at that point.” If we remain in the red tier for two weeks, we will receive more guidance from public health officials about what is allowable.Currently, we have the following options for in-person supports.
For the time being, we have the following options:
Serving small cohorts of students in Special Education: This is when a school district provides instructional supports for a small number of students on school campuses. This is a very targeted approach. OUSD is excited about a recent MOU with AFSCME, our labor partners representing paraeducators, to engage with a small number of students who receive special education services in special day classes (SDC) and who have been identified as regressing severely in their educational outcomes. This cohort approach will also allow us to begin to address a backlog of special education assessments for our students.
A county waiver allowing for in-person instruction for TK-6 students: OUSD can apply to the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) for a waiver which would allow in-person learning for a larger number of elementary school students (e.g., bringing K-2 students back for in-person instruction) as long as we meet a number of safety and other requirements. ACOE requested that school districts let them know if they are interested in applying for a TK-6 waiver. We have indicated that we are interested in applying for a waiver and will implement the next steps to work through the likelihood of this option. To be clear, expressing interest does not mean we are moving forward with this option, rather it keeps this door open as we continue to plan. Obtaining a waiver is a lengthy process. So far, 16 of the 18 districts in Alameda county have expressed interest. If COVID-19 conditions improve, and if we are able to come to an agreement with our labor partners, and if we gain approval from the state and county, then we would be able to bring more elementary students back for in-person learning rather than remain only in a distance learning setting.
City-led learning hubs and other supports:
In addition to the options above, we are also working with the city and community partners (after-school program providers) to support learning hubs, pods, and virtual tutors. At this point, these are very limited and are able to serve between 100 and 150 students. We are prioritizing limited student groups for these opportunities including unhoused students, foster students, newcomer students, and referred students from particular schools in our community. In alignment with the 4Ss, these supports will have extensive safety protocols in place.
We are exploring every option to help our students and families receive the support they need. I am committed to keeping the community as up to date as possible about these options going forward.
Please share your thoughts on this message Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
What do you think?