Berkeley's school district and teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on vaccinating teachers, paving the way for reopening schools in a hybrid system of in-person and remote learning, according to a joint statement released Tuesday from Berkeley Unifed School District, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the Board of Education.
The deal still has to be ratified by the union's membership.
The agreement, which covers all grades, from preschool to high school, requires the vaccination of teachers and other staff, as well as additional safety measures.
However, if the state assesses COVID-19 transmission in Alameda County as "moderate," placing it in the orange tier of its color-coded risk hierarchy, the agreement allows for the reopening plan to proceed regardless of whether vaccinations have been completed.
In addition, the district and union say they believe that as vaccinations take place, some teachers in all grades will voluntarily return to classrooms to offer a "limited number of in-person, small group activities for students who have needed the most support during distance learning." Families whose students are eligible for those groups will be contacted, the statement said.
Regarding the use of vaccines, it said: "The CDC has recommended, though not required, vaccines for educators, and we recognize the value of vaccines as a strong, additional layer of protection for our staff. Vaccinations will lead to a more confident reopening, and allow us to focus now on the final details of a hybrid learning schedule for our students."
Pending the completion of vaccinations, the schedule for reopening in a hybrid model will be:
- March 29: Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, and K-2
- April 5-9: Spring recess
- April 12: Grades 3-5; Grades 6-8; U9 Program at Berkeley High; Berkeley Technology Academy/Berkeley Independent Study
- April 19: Grades 10-12
This schedule will be adjusted according to the speed at which vaccinations take place and the type of vaccine offered.
"If the City’s vaccination schedule is delayed by a week, this timeline will be pushed back by a week," the statement reads. "On the other hand, these dates for reopening will be moved up by one week if the City is able to provide all BUSD staff with the Pfizer vaccine, which requires a shorter interval between inoculations."
The Berkeley Adult School, for the time being, will remain closed for in-person instruction.
Late Tuesday night, the city of Berkeley said teachers and staff from preschool to second grade, "and potentially up to sixth grade," will be able to sign up for vaccinations online beginning the week of Feb. 22 for appointments later that week, pending adequate vaccine supply.
The remainder of district elementary school staff can sign up in phases starting March 1. Employees who serve higher grades can sign up starting March 8.
More information on the hybrid model will be made available soon, according to the district and union, who also said that system of learning won't be "ideal for anyone right now," as "there is no substitute for full-time, five days a week instruction. However, state and local public health guidance continues to oblige districts to employ social distancing as one of many risk mitigation strategies, which reduces our ability to have all students on campus at once."