Berkeley Unified to close all schools

Berkeley High will close Friday over concerns of coronavirus spread, and all other schools will follow suit Monday.

Berkeley High and BTA will close Friday, followed by all other BUSD schools Monday. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Berkeley Unified announced Thursday night that the district would shut down all its schools over concerns around spreading the coronavirus.

Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy will close immediately — the campuses will not be open to students Friday. All other sites, from the preschools to the Berkeley Adult School will close starting Monday, Superintendent Brent Stephens said in a message sent to families around 8:30 p.m. Stephens said he hopes to reopen schools April 6, after spring break.

The decision appears to be a sharp departure from statements made by the district just Wednesday night, when Stephens said a confirmed COVID-19 case connected to the district would likely prompt a closure of the school in question. Berkeley has not announced any new coronavirus cases in the city, but Stephens’ announcement cites new cases in Alameda County, including the first two transmitted through the community instead of travel.

Read the full announcement from BUSD below.


Dear Berkeley Community Members,

As you may know, many local school districts are choosing to close schools, beginning next week, in order to address concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. I’m writing to let you know that Berkeley Unified will close our preschools, elementary and middle schools, as well as Berkeley Adult School, starting on Monday, March 16.

We have decided to cancel classes for our high school students sooner, and we apologize for the short notice, but as of Friday, March 13, all high school classes will be closed, so that high school staff can have time to work on options for students to do home learning while they are away from school.

Please remind your students that coronavirus is a serious health concern and they can help prevent the spread by staying home as much as possible. Berkeley High School students can still go to school on Friday to pick up breakfast from 9:00 to 9:30 and lunch from 12:00 to 12:30 at the Allston gate, and BTA students can pick up food in front of BTA. We are also making plans to provide meals for all students starting next week and will provide further details.


We hope to re-open schools after Spring Break, on Monday, April 6.  Our District Office will be closed to the public while schools are closed, but District Office staff will continue to work to keep essential operations going and we will continue to communicate with you, and if need be, we will adjust the reopening date.

Please know that the Board of Education and I do not take this decision lightly. After considering guidance from health officials, we wrestled a great deal to measure the costs and benefits of closing our schools. Today’s announcement of four new coronavirus cases in Alameda County, two of which are the county’s first cases of community-acquired transmission, added to our concerns.

I have been deeply touched by the overwhelming concern I hear in our community about protecting our most vulnerable individuals from the coronavirus. We hope that this step will support the regional effort to slow the spread of coronavirus in our area.

It’s very important that we all do our part to prevent further spread of the virus.  Everyone should continue to wash hands, cover your cough, stay home if you are not well, and avoid large gatherings in order to help slow the spread of the disease.

We’ll communicate more tomorrow with additional information about resources for students and families during this closure.  Please go to our website at berkeleyschools.net and also watch your email for further updates as we work on providing ways to support our staff and students while the District is closed.

Sincerely,

Brent Stephens, Ed.D.
Superintendent

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside.. Email: natalie@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: nat_orenstein.