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Berkeley Schools Can Begin Reopening Once Teachers Are Vaccinated

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- After much debate, Berkeley Unified School District officials and their teachers union reached a tentative agreement late Tuesday night on a timeline to return to the classroom.

It all begins with the teachers receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in March.

"At the center of this agreement is a commitment to reopen our schools for in-person learning by ensuring that our teachers and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19," said Superintendent Brent Stephens, Teacher's Union President Matt Meyer and Board of Education President Ty Alper in a joint statement.

"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."

Vaccinations won't be needed, officials said, if Berkeley enters the state's Orange Tier. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the union members.

"Once ratified, (the agreement) establishes a timeline for the reopening of all our schools, PK-12, into a hybrid model of instruction," the statement said.

Officials also advised parents that more details will be forthcoming.

"We know that families are anxious to hear the details of the hybrid model – whether or not your family will choose to return to in-person learning – and we will have more information very soon," officials said in their statement. "We also acknowledge that a hybrid model is not ideal for anyone right now, and that there is no substitute for full-time, five days a week instruction."

But they also said small groups of students may be meeting with teachers before the entire district reopens.

"While vaccinations are being completed, we anticipate that some teachers at all levels will voluntarily return to campus to offer a limited number of in-person, small group activities for students who have needed the most support during distance learning," officials said. "Families will be contacted if their students are eligible for these groups."

Here is the tentative timeline for a return to classes.

  • Monday, March 29 -- Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, and K-2
  • April 5-9 -- Spring Recess
  • Monday, April 12 -- Grades 3-5; Grades 6-8; U9 Program at Berkeley High; Berkeley Technology Academy/Berkeley Independent Study
  • Monday, April 19 -- Grades 10-12
  • For now, the Berkeley Adult School (BAS) will remain closed to in-person instruction.
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