A year into pandemic, some Bay Area schools still closed for in-person learning

Some Bay Area school districts are welcoming students back into classrooms. And some are not.

Students in the Milpitas Unified School District arrived for the first day of in-person instruction on Thursday, but only those in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade were allowed to return.

"You can't hug. You can't talk. You have to stay six feet away," said kindergartner Cenji Rosales.

Students can come to the campus twice a week and the rest is distance learning.

"Rather than have several kids at a table, which we typically have, it's one kid per table. They have their own supplies. No shared supplies," said principal Hanna Asrat.

About a third of the district's students who were eligible to return did so. 

"Time to celebrate. There's been a lot of excitement and anxiety. First-day jitters in the middle of the school year. Right before spring break. Definitely time to celebrate," Asrat said.

But about a dozen miles away in Fremont, parents found nothing to celebrate.

They gathered in front of the Fremont teachers union office Thursday afternoon to show their frustration over an announcement that came Wednesday. The announcement said the school district and the teachers union could not reach an agreement. That means no schools in the district will be reopening this spring.

"I certainly understand why students are disappointed in this outcome," said Fremont Unified School District Superintendent C.J. Cammack. 

"It was disappointing that we were incredibly close to creating an agreement that would have allowed elementary students and families who did want to return in-person for hybrid learning," said teachers union president Victoria Birbeck-Herrera.

But the district wanted all schools to reopen and the two sides couldn't agree on staffing.

"Our proposal was comprehensive for all grade levels. That offer should be in place for secondary students who deserve to return to campus," said Cammack.

By not reopening the district misses out on about $9 million in state reopening money.

The district does expect to open all its school doors in the fall.