New COVID-19 Policies: Optional masking and at-home testing


As Berkeley High School (BHS) gears up for the 2022-2023 school year, the administration prepares to control the spread of COVID-19, given the high rates of transmission. 

“What we know from the district, that sets out a COVID safety plan for all of our sites, is that we’re trying our best to go back to pre-pandemic experiences,” said BHS Principal Juan Raygoza. 

According to Raygoza, the school aims to make sure that students’ experiences can be as normal as possible while still prioritizing safety. Classes are expected to remain in-person, and the school will continue to hold indoor and outdoor events.

“Masks are strongly recommended while indoors, but not required,” Raygoza said. “We encourage everyone that’s at school to be fully vaccinated and boosted if eligible. Students should stay at home and notify us if they have any COVID symptoms, or if they test positive. Everyone should be encouraged to participate in COVID testing, especially during high transmission rates.”

Though weekly surveillance testing is no longer required, as it was during the 2021-2022 school year, BHS is encouraging students to test as often as they can. 

“Our staff will have access to (over-the-counter COVID tests) and students can come up to the main office to get one at no cost,” Raygoza said. “Every Friday, as students are leaving school, we’ll have parent volunteers with COVID test carts, and they can pick one up on their way out.” 

On other weekdays, according to Raygoza, students can either go to the main office to pick up a test or get tested at the Berkeley Adult School by entering through the backside on Curtis Street. Testing at the Berkeley Adult School starts everyday around 9:30 a.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m. 

Tonia Coleman, BHS executive vice principal, commented on the importance of other safety measures in addition to testing. 

“The one thing that I think we all know is that washing your hands and masking does help, and it’s strongly encouraged. So if folks mask up, we can lower the spread quickly,” said Coleman.  

In terms of COVID-19 precautions in classrooms specifically, Coleman said that air purifiers would remain in all classrooms, as well as the Plexiglass in the front office.

If COVID-19 rates start to increase or there are any outbreaks, the school is prepared to reinstate surveillance testing, according to Raygoza. 

“Our district has also contracted traveling technicians that can come to Berkeley High when or if necessary, who can do more on the spot testing,” Raygoza said. “If we find out, for example, that we have multiple cases in a classroom or on a sports team, then a technician will be available to come to Berkeley High and provide on-site testing to everyone that might be in close contact.”

Raygoza explained that the option for technicians and on-site testing offers BHS a safety net.

“We are really excited to see you all back. When it comes to COVID, even though it’s now been two and a half years, I think we just have to remain watchful,” Raygoza commented. “Even though masking is strongly recommended and not required, I ask everyone to think about our community and the ways that you can protect yourself and protect those around you… to keep all of us safe as we continue to go through this pandemic which is not over.”