Excitement abounds as dozens of East Bay schools reopen

Dozens of schools in the East Bay reopened on Wednesday, welcoming back students to the classroom for the first time in months.

The Orinda Union School District reopened their classes to Kinder-2nd grade. After months of planning and changes, COVID-19 safety measures were implemented when students arrived to campuses. Children were spaced apart as they waited outside of their classroom before the start of class. Campuses had designated walking paths and desks were disinfected between morning and afternoon cohorts.

Glorietta Elementary Principal Tracey Lewis said extra PPE was put in every classroom and the school emphasized the practice of wearing a mask all day before students returned to class.

"We did a lot of videos to show kids what it would look like when they followed the procedures and plans," Lewis said.

First grade teacher Mrs. Terry Schrittwieser started her class off with a song about COVID-19 safety. She said she came up with the tune after seeing a similar song by another teacher on Facebook. It was Schrittwieser’s first time meeting her students after distance learning since August.

"I feel like I know them and they know me, but this is the first time we’re in the classroom altogether," Schrittwieser said. "That feels pretty exciting."

In the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, all 22 elementary schools reopened for in-person learning. Superintendent Dr. John Malloy said roughly 30% of students returned, while 70% of parents chose to continue distance learning for various reasons.

"Our families that want to be back, deserve to be back," Malloy said. "Our families that want remote deserve to stay remote and that has been our commitment 100%. All voices matter and I think we've finally gotten to this great place."

SRVUSD has similar safety protocols that include distanced desks and each student has a bin on or near their desk for personal items. Third-6th grade students will likely be allowed to return to campuses next Wednesday.

Both districts will continue with a hybrid model for the remainder of the year.

Other districts like San Francisco Unified and Oakland Unified are still unclear on a return date. Mt. Diablo Unified said it was working on a revised reopening plans, but details were not immediately available. Meanwhile some Bay Area teachers are refusing to return to the classroom until they are vaccinated.