The following was a press release issued by Reopen California regarding the decision by the Brentwood Union School District to bring back students as early as March 29, 2021.
Bay Area School District Changes Course and Votes to Open Schools in ‘Shocking’ Decision Reversal
Brentwood, Calif. (February 27,2021) – The Brentwood Union School District (BUSD) in the East Bay reversed a previous decision and voted to reopen elementary and middle schools in a 5-0, unanimous decision.
“The community is shocked at this complete 180,” said Reopen California Schools Founder Jonathan Zachreson. “We are profoundly encouraged by the Brentwood Union School District board and their willingness to hear the concerns of parents. This unexpected decision during their emergency board meeting serves as an example to other districts that it is not too late to do the right thing.”
Previously, BUSD stated they would follow the results of a survey issued to all district parents. The survey results must have shown 50% +1 in favor of returning to a hybrid model or the entire district would remain in distance learning through the end of the school year. The survey, which closed on Thursday, resulted in a 55% to 45% split with the majority choosing distance learning.
“The plan caused confusion with parents, as it stated a potential teacher reassignment of all students, if a hybrid model was chosen,” explained Zachreson. “We heard from parents that they felt forced to choose the ‘lesser of two evils’ and were concerned about causing additional disruption to their children, who clung to their teachers for the only semblance of stability.”
The emergency meeting of the BUSD board began with parents and teachers offering public comment. The board then convened their discussion. Citing the results from the parent survey were possibly skewed due to misunderstanding and fear, the school board fully retracted their previous decision.
The board stated they did not expect the parent survey results to be so close, and Board President Scott Dudek said he did not only represent 55% of the families, but all 100%.
They also stated an “overwhelming majority” of teachers answered the educator survey declaring their intent to return to campus, if given the option. This was contradictory to previous data (presented to them on Feb. 17) from the Brentwood Teachers Union that stated only 30% were willing. Additionally, the district survey showed that 80% of classified staff wanted to come back in person and would be willing to assist with sanitation efforts.
Combining these findings, the board changed their longstanding opinion and voted 5-0 to return to school on March 29 in hybrid format, provided the county is in the red tier, as expected.
In elementary school, the model allows families to choose in-person or continue distance learning. The new part of the plan, referred to by Superintendent Dana Eaton as “reverse engineering,” will mean that each school will call the families who chose to remain in distance learning. They will communicate what their current teacher has chosen and give them the option to join their teacher in-person or continue remote with a reassignment. The hybrid model will offer in-person instruction two hours a day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It will follow an AM/ PM structure to ensure that each class size does not exceed 15 students. The updated plan will also titrate grades in throughout the first week, allowing each school site to decide how to proceed. A suggestion of TK-1 on Monday, 2-3 on Tuesday and 4-5 on Thursday was offered.
Middle schools will proceed with simultaneous instruction. Educators will teach in person, while streaming live to students who are at home.
High schools in the city are a separate district, Liberty Union High School District.
Noting that many teachers will need to work during their scheduled spring break vacation to prepare, the board made a recommendation to pay teachers for those additional hours.
The board stated that more than 700 people were in attendance during the Zoom webinar and mentioned the vast amount of emails and phone calls they had received in past 24 hours — one board member noting he received more than 100 emails personally.
Heather McKinney, a parent in BUSD and a PR representative of Reopen California Schools, said, “our parent community was completely shocked at the decision last night. We were not expecting the board to completely change course, and we are overwhelmingly happy with their decision to honor the wishes of the parents and teachers in our district. We spoke up, and they listened.”
She added, “the parents and teachers who offered public comment at the beginning of the meeting were fact-based, articulate, relatable and incredibly compelling. I am so thankful for their representation. Opening up campuses in a slow transition, after more than a year (at time of reopening) of complete closure, is a step in the right direction. This will allow schools to make adjustments as necessary and students to emotionally/socially readapt. The 46 days of the remaining school year will give a perfect, slow segue to full-time, in-person learning next school year.”
The BUSD board, administration and school site principals and secretaries will meet on Monday, February 29 at Edna Hill Middle School to discuss specifics of the reopening plan.
About Reopen California Schools
Reopen California Schools is a fully-volunteer group formed by Jonathan Zachreson in June 2020, following the COVID-19 shutdown of in-person, public education across the state. The group consists of families who advocate for parents’ right to choose the educational environment best for their students. Focusing on grassroots mobilization, its primary purpose is to educate parents on laws, regulations and rights. It also provides resources to educators wanting to understand the roles and fiscal impacts of teacher unions. Reopen California Schools has garnered the attention of more than 1 million Twitter users and has been interviewed by numerous local and national news networks. Their Facebook group of more than 11,000 members is open to the public.