School rolls out its lunch and technology access programs


March 18, 2020

Fitz Vo/Bear Witness
School counselor Danielle Morrella takes a lunch order on the district’s first day of its Grab and Go lunch program.

Dozens and dozens served
The Grab and Go school lunch program handed out 40 lunches to students Tuesday as Branham officials work to expand access to resources and food to its community. Administrators waited in the parking lot in masks and took orders from students and parents who drove up. The hot meals included chicken teriyaki and rice, spicy chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, while turkey sandwiches, PB&J and chicken Caesar with yogurt parfait rounded out the cold meals. The meals are open to anyone who is under 18 in the community. No ID is required. The program will continue every weekday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until school reopens April 13.

Technology access
The district has also been surveying students on their technology access at home. As of Tuesday, more than 1,300 of the Branham’s 1,800 students have replied, with the remaining students to be contacted. So far, 35 Chromebooks and 4 wifi hotspots have been loaned out.

School’s out?
Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested on Tuesday that schools will be closed through the summer as the country tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.

“Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week,” he said at a press conference. “It’s unlikely that many of these schools — few if any — will open before the summer break.”

In an email to staff, Principal Cheryl Lawton dismissed the idea, and said that, pending prior warnings, school is expected to return April 13, after spring break.

— Compiled by staff

Coronavirus update, March 16, 2020

County orders shelter in place  

Starting midnight tonight, residents of six Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara, will be ordered to stay inside. All businesses that are non-essential are being ordered to close along with all non-essential gatherings being cancelled. Places that attract clusters of people, like gyms, nightclubs or bars, will have to close down. Restaurants must serve only take-out or delivery orders. Hospitals, grocery stores, banks and pharmacies will remain open.

If residents take public transportation or go to the store, they are expected to remain at least 6 feet away from others. Residents are still allowed to go on walks, runs and hikes provided they practice social distancing.

According to a memo sent out to district employees, district workers are considered “disaster service workers” in a time of need. 

CDC Guidelines 

The CDC urges all gatherings of over 50 people for the next eight weeks to be cancelled.


AP Update

The College Board is developing resources to help students continue their education during closures. Possible home testing may be rolled out depending on the situation in May. Additional update to come March 20.


Coronavirus update, March 14, 2020

District will unveil ‘supplemental learning activities’ during closure

Following orders from Santa Clara County health officials CUHSD schools will remain closed until April 13. The Bear Witness asked students for their questions and concerns about this closure. The district will be transitioning to “supplemental educational opportunities” rather than a distance learning program. These supplemental activities, which have not been made clear  are meant to prepare students to come back to a rigorous curriculum rather than to replace class time. What this entails will be made clear by Monday.

Principal Cheryl Lawton told the Bear Witness that though she couldn’t provide specific information until it’s shared, she said that the district and teachers union have worked over the past two weeks planning for the closure.

“I am pretty impressed with the amount of thought that has been put in place to ensure that the needs of all members of our Branham community are being met,” she said.

Lawton stressed that school while is out in some physical form, students should not treat it as a vacation.

“Teachers will still be holding ‘class,’ and students will still have assignments and other work to complete and submit,” she said. “It will just look different for a while.”

— Julianne Alvares



Are we going to have online classes? 

The district has outlined a week by week plan to keep students educated during the closure:

March 17-20: Officials will be outlining what supplemental learning opportunities will look like. Teachers will be working in small groups to establish lesson plans. This week will also be focused on ensuring both students and teachers have access to technology.

March 23- April 3: Supplemental education plan is implemented and will remain until school returns.

April 6-10: Spring Break no instruction.

Will we have to make up these weeks in the summer?

School will still end on June 3 and graduation has not been moved. However, this may be changed as the situation develops.

Will students who rely on school for meals be able to get food?

Students will be able to get “Grab and Go” meals at each school site from 11:30-1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

What will happen to AP testing?

As of now, the College Board has no plans of pushing AP test dates past their originally set times, from May 4-8 and May 11-15. However, the organization says it will be more flexible with late testing dates.

If a school is able to successfully make up the majority of its instruction time, the College Board strongly recommends taking tests at their scheduled dates. Late testing fees for the third week in May will be waived for schools impacted by the pandemic, given they note the “school closing” circumstance in exam orders. Testing in the fourth week of May is possible under a request by educators. 

Although they recommend students to take their AP exams early in May, College Board officials say that they will be flexible to schools affected by COVID-19 as well as make extensions for schools that file the proper paperwork to do so.

In early April, they plan to release more videos and online tutorials for supplemental academic support for AP students.

Check for more updates.

Companies offer free services for schools

Zoom, a video teleconferencing service, has made its software free to K-12 schools. Many colleges have adopted Zoom as a subsite for in person classes. Ed Puzzle is offering the entirety of its platform for free to teachers and districts. CommonLit which has reading passages for grades 3-12 and offers lesson plans is offering free use for teachers and administrators.  Voces digital offers language learning services including Spanish 1-Ap, French 1-3, and english language learning program is giving free access to their program through June 30 if you fill out this form

What about students with poor or no internet access?

We will update when we find out about the district’s plans.

— Julianne Alvares and Elizabeth Posey