October 30, 2020
|Dear Oakland Community,|
In the last few weeks our public health officials have been allowing more of our community to reopen – including schools under certain conditions (see prior update). On Wednesday, our County Superintendent shared a statement about the conditions under which Alameda County’s secondary schools are allowed to reopen.
I just have to pause for a moment and reflect.
Every time I talk to people about reopening our schools for in-person instruction, I find that there are two strong perspectives.
There are people who will only consider returning to school when the community returns to pre-covid levels of safety. Some people or their families have greater health risks. Some feel like they just don’t know enough about the long term effects of COVID. Some members of our community have been limiting outside trips and staying in their homes for months out of these concerns.
And then there are the families for whom distance learning is simply not working. For these families, it goes beyond just being hard or stressful; their students are suffering profound regression and learning loss. Many Oakland kids have not only lost their in-person school, but also counseling, group supports, and extracurricular social supports. Our health care workers have seen increases in child abuse, stress, isolation, depression, and suicide ideation. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the academic and social emotional experience of in-person learning in a shared environment among peers is invaluable to our children.
This is the silent toll COVID-19 is exacting on our kids and families.
Our community is struggling. People are profoundly hurting and we will collectively feel the effects of this for a long time. Just prior to the pandemic, Oakland’s homicide rate was down 46% compared to the same period in the previous year. Over the summer, the rate increased and has now surpassed the prior year.
Unfortunately, this pain is not unique to Oakland – it’s happening across our country -but this is our Town and we live and breathe these effects every day. Oakland was in the national news this week when the New York Times profiled the tragic death of one of our children, 16 year old Aaron Pryor in a story suggesting, “Awash in new firearms, cities are drawing connections between the stresses of the coronavirus and a surge in homicides.”
As we have from the very beginning, we will continue having real conversations.
\What does “safe”’mean? In a recent interview, Dr. Fauci said even with a successful vaccination program next year, “it will be easily by the end of 2021 — and perhaps even into the next year — before we start having some semblances of normality.”
If that is true, what does it mean for us? What is it going to take to both keep people safe from disease transmission while also protecting our community from being devastated by the silent toll of COVID-19, which, in some cases, is no less deadly.
These concerns – and the differing perspectives about returning to school – are real, valid, and held across our community. They are held by our friends, family, and co-workers. We can unite in an approach that validates the truth of all of these beliefs and lived experiences. We can work together to find creative solutions that will protect all of us AND meet the needs of our diverse communities.
With the changing of our tiers – Purple to Orange and now heading into Yellow, we are continuing to prepare for whatever may come next. We will be releasing a public dashboard at the end of next week which will track OUSD’s state of readiness for returning to in-person instruction.
Fall Family Feedback Survey
In the spirit of looking ahead and improving how we are serving our community, we launched our Fall Family Survey last week to collect feedback on distance learning, the desire to return to in-person learning, and other areas (click here for email). It is open until Nov. 12th. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts.
This is incredibly important feedback and we will use the information to get better at serving our community. On the website, there is an update video, presentation materials, and a summary of health and safety standards all translated into Spanish, English, Chinese and Arabic.Thank you for everything that you all are doing. I know that we are all tired. I know that we have already given so much of ourselves to support our students.
And, I know that the spirit and will that have brought us this far will bring us through this trial.
Please share your thoughts on this message Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
What do you think?