Dear Oakland Unified Community,
I write to you today with a brief COVID-19 update and to share some of my thoughts regarding the public health crisis which continues to evolve and has us changing the way we operate to serve our students.
It was with the health and safety of all students and staff in mind that I joined with many superintendents across the state to make the unprecedented decision to keep our campuses closed for in-person instruction through the remainder of the school year. I know it’s the right decision, yet I also know that this year will never be the year any of us expected for our students. From schools closed and sports cancelled to staying at home and away from friends to the postponement or cancellation of annual school experiences that come every spring, our students and our staff are missing out on countless aspects of life in OUSD. It’s hard for all of us and I wish there was another way forward. But right now, we have no choice. Our schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year largely because the state ordered all of us to shelter in place indefinitely. As always, the health and well being of everyone is our top priority.
This era is not just shifting “normal” life to our homes and education to online learning. This pandemic has turned everything on its head. All of us are staying home and trying to care for and support our families and loved ones.
I know that many of our families are already hurting. For example, we learned that more than 80% of families at one of our elementary schools have one parent who lost a job and more than 60% have two parents who are now unemployed. And many of our school communities are facing the same kind of adversity. Our city, our country, and the entire world are in the middle of an intense crisis and we need to marshall our resources to meet this challenge. We are working with an increasing number of partners to bring more resources to our community schools, for example:
There are countless individuals, foundations and corporations who have generously stepped up to support our COVID19 Rapid Relief Fund. We are humbled and incredibly grateful for this support, 100% of which is going directly to support our students, families and schools. https://www.oaklandedfund.org/give/covid-19/
The Grab and Go Free Meal Program couldn’t happen were it not for all the remarkable support we are receiving from the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the World Central Kitchen, Revolution Foods, Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, SupplyBank.org, Numi Tea Company, Lineage Logistics, Dreisbach Enterprises, Oakland Police Department and countless volunteers.
We know that distance learning is not regular school and parents are not teachers. The intentionality of school and the guidance of educators cannot be swapped out for a chromebook and a hotspot. Yes, school is about academics, but it’s also a place for connection and social emotional learning. That’s what we need to focus on to support our young people. Students around the globe are in the same situation in terms of missed instruction and parents everywhere share similar worries and concerns.
I am crushed for the class of 2020. Our proud graduating seniors have earned the proms, graduations, and all the celebrations that usually come for every senior class. It hurts to see them not have the senior year they so deeply deserve. We will do everything possible to support them during this transition and will find some special ways to celebrate our seniors.
We are constantly evolving our COVID-19 response. Find our latest updates here:
Distance Learning: As the California Department of Education provides more guidance on distance learning. OUSD will continue to build relevant teaching and learning activities for the rest of the school year.
Academic Guidance: Our teachers and leaders will receive academic guidance early next week and our Chief Academic Officer, Sondra Aguilera, will share more with the community, as well. Our school staff are in the process of reaching out to their communities to figure out who needs technology to access our online learning opportunities. We are moving as quickly as we can and also making sure we are able to support all students who need the help.
Student Promotions: We received additional guidance on a wide variety of instructional issues such as graduation requirements, college admissions, grading, etc. We are in the process of reviewing the guidance and applying it to OUSD and will share more details early next week. The updated Continuity of Education plan will include the ability for teachers to introduce new academic content and explain our credit/no credit grading approach for 6-12 students.
Grab and Go Free Meals: The program is running full steam ahead as more and more families are relying on the food we are providing twice a week with help from our partners. In fact, yesterday, our amazing nutrition services team held a special Grab and Go event where they handed out food to almost the entire community at the elementary school.
Frequently Asked Questions: For more information please see these documents: (English, Spanish, and Chinese). As you can imagine, it is updated frequently.
I am so proud of our community and the stories I am hearing about how we are supporting and caring for each other.
Thank you for sheltering in place and exercising proper social distancing. As I have seen expressed elsewhere, the empty schools, playgrounds, and streets that we see right now are about caring for our community. By all of us exercising social distancing, I see love for each other, our elders, and our town. It is a deep concern for our community that unites us while keeping us physically separated. That bond is the foundation of our city and will forever tie us together in spirit.
I am humbled by the dedication of our first responders, hospital staff, grocery store employees, custodians, food service workers, agriculture workers and all the others who are the backbone of our society and who are helping us get through this pandemic. If anything, this crisis continues to make clear the importance of these people who serve the public. We must honor and support them now and after life returns to some semblance of normalcy.
Tough times are ahead, but we will get through these challenges together.
Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell