More COVID testing and more air filters. Those are some of the demands that teachers and families in Oakland will voice to the school board Wednesday. But the district says low COVID numbers amongst students and staff indicate the district’s current safety strategy is working.
The Oakland Unified School District’s COVID-19 cases in the classrooms are dropping. As of September 20, 17 students and three staffers tested positive. As of Oct. 5, zero classrooms have to quarantine.
But teachers like Sarah Goudy who teaches history at Rudsdale High School says there’s still room for improvement – especially when it comes to testing.
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“One of the things that we want the public to know is that there are only 10 testing sites throughout the entire district,” said Goudy. “And they’re only open from the hours of 8 to 4. So there’s actually very minimal testing.”
Goudy will be one of several teachers rallying Wednesday afternoon outside La Escuelita Elementary School, before the school board holds their meeting. Among their demands, the teacher’s union wants the district to provide testing sites at each school.
“We really won’t know what the real infection rate is, or how many cases there actually are until regular testing is accessible at every school site,” said Goudy.
District spokesperson John Sasaki says the district has already tested more than 41,000 students and staff members. Due to the demand nationwide, COVID tests, including take-home test kits, are running low.
“We’ve done more testing at Oakland Unified than in any other school district in California outside Los Angeles,” he said. “That is not possible given our capacity and given the availability of the [at-home] tests.”
And there’s the issue of lunch time during the rainy months. Goudy says students are encouraged to eat food outside, but what’s going to happen when dozens of kids are crammed into a cafeteria because it’s pouring outside?
“All we have in our cafeterias are a bunch of fans pointed at the ceiling,” said Goudy.
While HEPA air filters may not work well in a room as large as a cafeteria, the district says it used federal dollars to upgrade their school’s air conditioning systems.
“We’ve improved our HVAC systems in our schools with MERV16 filters and we have fans to increase air flow,” said Sasaki.