Superintendent Weighs Reopening

Superintendent Weighs Reopening

The Superintendent of Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Pascuale Scuderi released the following statement on Jan. 24.

Dear Families:
This has been a week of momentous and historic changes on the national front. I hope that you and your students have had time to watch some of the inauguration ceremonies, reflect on the speeches and your reactions to them, and discuss the norms, traditions and import of our constitutionally enshrined “peaceful transfer of power.”

This week I am providing you with an update on our continued pursuit of a partial in-person reopening of our elementary schools on our Monday, March 8, target date. This remains a fluid situation, as both public health conditions and county and state guidance about those conditions are continually changing. We are diligently working to meet all timelines and comply with the shifting guidance and benchmarks in order to meet our goal for our families.

Case Rate
The current state threshold for opening schools is less than 7 cases per 100,000 residents. (This is part of the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” plan.) The new proposed state threshold for opening schools is less than 25 cases per 100,000 residents. As of today, the case rate for Alameda County is 37.7 cases/100,000 residents.

Reopening Targets
Our current goals are to begin offering small group support to vulnerable students — including those receiving special education services and those needing academic intervention — in February and open Kindergarten to grade 5 on March 8 if public health conditions allow.

Our principals and administrators returned to their school sites on Feb. 1 in order to prepare for small groups to return. District senior leadership returned to District Office on Feb. 1 as well, although the building will remain closed to the general public.

Over the last several weeks, a number of families have asked if AUSD can apply for a waiver so as to open earlier. Unfortunately, Alameda County remains in the purple (most restrictive) tier of COVID19 risks, and under the current state guidance, a waiver process is no longer an option.

In order to open on March 8, we are moving quickly to resolve several outstanding issues.

State Approval
The “Safe Schools for All” proposal promises funding to support districts that re-open their schools this spring, but also impose some fairly significant requirements. One new requirement is that we submit a new COVID-19 Safety Plan to the California Department of Public Health before re-open. The plan includes a new five-page checklist of information to be included in our reopening plan and a report for CalOSHA on how we will keep employees safe.

Much of the information on the checklist is already included in the Nov. 12, 2020, Reopening Plan that the Alameda County Public Health Department approved. We are currently adding what is missing, as well as completing the CalOSHA report. We aimed for a Feb. 1 submission of these materials in order to qualify for the funds.

This new “Safe Schools for All” remains a proposal and will not go officially into effect until the state legislature approves it. At this time, however, we are aligning our preparations with that proposal.

Testing of Students and Staff
According to revised guidance about the plan that we were sent on Jan. 14, the proposed funding is accompanied by a substantial increase in the expectations around who gets tested and how often in a reopening scenario. Specifically, to qualify state funds to support re-opening, AUSD needs to provide weekly testing to all staff and students if the case rate is greater than 14 cases/100,000 residents or biweekly testing to all staff and students if the case rate is less than 14 cases/100,000 residents. We have been in talks with testing providers for several weeks now and will be bringing potential contracts to discuss with the Board of Education at our meeting of Jan. 26. We are aggressively working to secure contracts and dedicating significant time and attention to have this process in place ahead of March 8.

Agreements with Labor
We are continuing to meet with the Alameda Education Association and the California School Employee Association to craft agreements that meet the needs and concerns of our community and our staff for both Learning Hubs and a return to in-person instruction. Our hope is to reach mutually acceptable agreements in the very near future.

In California, educators are in the 1B phase for vaccination. Alameda County is still in the 1A phase. We have been told that the county will start releasing vaccinations for educators in the next several weeks. We will be working with the Alameda County Public Health Department and the Alameda County Office of Education to determine the most effective and efficient way to help our employees get vaccinated.

Learning for Students with Disabilities
Letters were sent to families with students who have moderate to severe disabilities. That letter included a link to a survey to see how many families in this group were interested in participating in on-campus learning support groups, which we are working to open as early as possible in February.

Please note that our goal is to progressively open as many additional small group learning opportunities for students with mild to moderate disabilities and our broader student community as soon as we can.

Pasquale Scuderi