Delta Variant Worries Remain as Students Return to School in Oakland

"We will all do our part to make sure that we never have to shut down our schools again," Mayor Libby Schaaf said

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Monday marked the first time in more than a year-and-a-half that thousands of Oakland students returned to the classroom.

Safety measures are in place and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond even stopped by some classrooms to check on how students were adjusting. However, many parents are wondering if the state will pass a vaccine mandate for all teachers given the rising cases of the coronavirus delta variant.

At Emerson Elementary School in Oakland, parents and kids got a first taste of normalcy on the students' first day of in-person learning.

"It's crazy. I thought she wasn't going to go in," said OUSD father Salvador Cabral about his daughter Donna Cabral.

Donna, who is 9-years-old, surprised his father when she walked right past those doors and joined her classmates.

Over at Horace Mann Elementary, masked up students recited the school anthem in front of guests that included State Superintendent Thurmond and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

"We will all do our part to make sure that we never have to shut down our schools again," Mayor Schaaf said.

More than 70% of Alameda County residents are vaccinated, but that doesn't quell parents' concerns that the highly contagious delta variant will somehow find its way in school.

In fact, about 850 students are still choosing to stick to virtual learning while OUSD debates whether or not to require all teachers to be vaccinated.

"If they don't want to, that's up to them," said Cabral.

The school district is continuing to host pop-up vaccine clinics at specific school sites. State Superintendent Thurmond said his office is focusing on giving districts enough funding to make sure they have stacks of COVID-19 tests and PPE supplies.

"The are many challenges facing us with the variant," Thurmond said.

One of those challenges is addressing students' learning loss after more than a year of Zoom classes.

"We'll focus on accelerated learning for our students to make up for lost time," Thurmond said.

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