Hayward Unified students and educators returned to in-person classes Tuesday after the district held classes online last week due to shortages of healthy staff members and COVID-19 tests.
The school district's board of education voted Friday in favor of the return to campuses along with a combination of safety measures which district officials and county public health officials believe will help keep students and staff safe.
During the week of Jan. 3-9, when students returned from winter break, 702 students and 112 staff members tested positive for the virus, according to the district.
Officials plan to deploy district employees and volunteer educational staff to campuses in the event that too many standard staff members contract the virus.
"Between the additional classified staff and the volunteers and the district staff being sent out, … we feel (we're in) a much better position than we were last week to have schools operate," district Superintendent Matt Wayne said during Friday's board of education meeting.
While the district's schools were closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students will return Tuesday on a minimum day schedule for the duration of the week.
Elementary students will also remain on a minimum day schedule next week, while middle and high school students will attend classes on a block schedule to limit movement between classrooms.
"HUSD meets regularly with the Alameda County Public Health Department and the county's top health official reiterated her belief that students are safest in school because they are less likely to contract COVID in school than outside in the community," the district said Sunday in a statement.
The district plans to provide testing to staff via the California Department of Public Health at the district office, located at 24411 Amador St. Testing for students and staff will also be available via La Clinica and Covid Clinic, according to district officials.
The Alameda County Office of Education has also provided at-home tests to staff members, according to the district, and all students from preschool to 12th grade have also been given at least two at-home tests.
District officials plan to partner with another testing vendor to provide testing to elementary school students in the coming weeks.
KN95 masks have been sent to all staff members and surgical masks have been sent to all students, according to the district.
The Hayward Education Association did not respond to a request for comment on the return to in-person classes, but Wayne said union officials have "collaborated" with the district on the return plan.
"There's definitely concern, and our administrators do have concerns about being able to operate a safe space, a safe learning environment," Wayne said.
Schools will temporarily offer grab-and-go lunches to students and staff meetings will be held virtually, according to the district.
High school student-athletes will be tested for COVID before attending practices and competitions, with only have a limited number of spectators allowed. Students who don't participate in athletics will be expected to leave campus once classes have completed.
Performances by students will be held virtually through at least Feb. 14, while study and field trips will be postponed until after that date.
"There's still going to be challenges, but it's going to be different than the week before," Wayne said. "And if not, we'll regroup."