As omicron surged in Berkeley, Berkeley Unified School District realized quickly that they needed to pivot from a strategy of individual contact tracing to one of universal testing across all schools. To be successful BUSD would need a large testing staff, but additional technicians were near impossible to find during the omicron surge. Ever committed to keeping schools open, BUSD looked immediately to the community for help, and specifically to the Berkeley Public Schools Fund’s own Berkeley Schools Volunteers (BSV). Once again, BSV heeded the pandemic call and quickly mobilized its volunteers into action.
The community response was impressive – since mid-January nearly 450 volunteers have given their time and energy, filling almost 1000 testing shifts across all Berkeley Public School sites. Volunteers were trained by and paired with professional technicians, helping to administer COVID tests to students and staff. They learned to handle test cards, swabs and reagent liquid, processing hundreds of tests during each shift. Volunteers also provided a familiar and reassuring presence for our students, which was so appreciated as our school communities adjusted to this new protocol.
Berkeley Schools Volunteer Bethany Schoenfeld supported numerous testing shifts at Berkeley High. Her sentiments reflect the dedication and commitment of our volunteer community:
“The message throughout the pandemic has been ‘We’re all in this together.’ I was pleased to do a small part to help put restrictions behind us in a hands-on way, by processing Covid tests for hundreds of students. Connecting with the teachers and students during testing felt like teamwork towards an important goal.”
Partnership and teamwork were the foundations of the program’s success, says Winn Burda, BUSD Project Manager, COVID Testing:
“Words can not express my gratitude for your support. Huge thanks to everyone at Berkeley Schools Volunteers and the Berkeley Public Schools Fund for pulling this all together. Amazing partnership.”
The District owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to this inspiring team. In expressing his thanks, BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens called out the strength of the Berkeley community:
“We are grateful to every one of our volunteers and feel fortunate to educate students in a community where so many are willing to do much.”