Mar 10 2020

Piedmont Schools and Covid-19

Below is a letter sent to all Piedmont Unified School District Families:

March 6, 2020

Dear PUSD Families,

Everyday we continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and I am writing to share our efforts to address student/staff and visitors’ hygiene and respiratory etiquette on our campuses, as well as planning for possible school closures.  This past week, I’ve been in informational and planning meetings with county, city, and district leadership, including the Director of Alameda County Public Health, the county superintendent, superintendents from across Alameda County, Piedmont school board members, and Piedmont’s mayor, vice-mayor, city administrator, and fire chief.

Guidance from the Center of Disease Control (CDC)
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s most recent  Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), “schools should continue to collaborate, share information, and review plans with local health officials to help protect the whole school community, including those with special health needs.”

In our case, we have been coordinating with the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACDPH) and the Alameda County Office of Education.

Additionally, the CDC recommends that “school plans should be designed to minimize disruption to teaching and learning and protect students and staff from social stigma and discrimination. Plans can build on everyday practices (e.g., encouraging hand hygiene, monitoring absenteeism, communicating routinely) that include strategies for before, during, and after a possible outbreak.”

Health Etiquette

I want to continue to provide and emphasize common-sense preventive actions for students and staff. For example, all staff and students should stay home when sick; appropriately cover coughs and sneezes; clean frequently touched surfaces; and wash your hands often.

  • CDC has workplace resources such as posters with messages for staff about staying home when sick and how to avoid spreading germs at work.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information on germ prevention strategies and reducing the spread of illness in childcare settings.
  • Handwashing strategies are vital and include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Staff and students should remain at home if they show signs of fever or respiratory illness.  The Alameda County Public Health Department has developed an extremely informative flyer that provides families with guidance on when to keep children home from school.  Some of the highlights are the following:
    • A fever of 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) or above. Keep your child home for 24 hours after a fever is below 100.4 without the aid of medication (such as Tylenol or Advil)
      • Nausea or vomiting (if your child has vomited within 24 hours of the start of school, DO NOT send your child to school)
      • Signs or symptoms of a new cough or cold and does not feel well enough to fully participate in school activities.
  • PUSD staff members do not screen students or other staff to identify cases of COVID-19. The majority of respiratory illnesses are not COVID-19. If we have cases of COVID-19, Alameda County Public Health Department (ACDPH) officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.

School(s) Closure Planning
The CDC and the California Department of Education (CDE) are recommending that all Districts across the state of California consider educational planning for students if a mandatory 14-day quarantine is instituted (either partially for only those students who become infected) or more drastically if CDE, CA Department of Public Health, Alameda County Office of Education, or the Superintendent decides to close schools for an extended period of time.

The CDC has indicated that local health officials may recommend temporary school closures if a student or staff member attended school prior to being confirmed as a COVID-19 case. We would coordinate with the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACDPH) and the Alameda County Office of Education for the scope (e.g., a single school, a full district) and duration of school dismissals will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the specific cases in the impacted community.

Large event cancellations or school closures may be recommended for 14 days, or possibly longer if advised by the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACDPH). The nature of these actions (e.g., geographic scope, duration) may change as the local outbreak situation evolves.

The rationale for a school(s) closure is to limit the possibility of transmission among staff, students, and families, and to provide time for cleaning and the likelihood that the virus expires over several days throughout the site.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).”

The CDC has also recommended that if schools are closed due to a student or staff member diagnosed with COVID-19, schools should consider the following steps:

  • Temporarily cancel extracurricular group activities and large events.
  • Cancel or postpone events such as after-school assemblies and pep rallies, field trips, and sporting events.
  • Discourage students and staff from gathering or socializing anywhere.
  • Discourage gatherings at places like a friend’s house, a favorite restaurant, or the local shopping mall.
  • Ensure continuity of education.
    • Review continuity plans, including plans for the continuity of teaching and learning. Implement e-learning plans, including digital and distance learning options as feasible and appropriate.

I’ve recently met with the administrative team and both Gabe Kessler, APT President and Terra Salazar, CSEA President regarding the development of continuity plans.  We have outlined draft protocols and structures to provide a continuity of education in the event of a school(s) closure. Principals will share these draft protocols and structures at upcoming staff/site leadership team meetings for input and discussion.

We are currently investigating options for distance-teaching/learning with the use of Independent Study models (e.g. lessons/activities delivered electronically via email and/or Schoology).

New developments (and guidance) arrive daily.  I will continue to provide staff, families, and students with regular updates as we learn more.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Randall Booker, Superintendent

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