Schools and COVID

Oakland Teachers May Soon Go on Strike Demanding COVID Safety

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Another round of negotiations is underway between the Oakland Unified School District and the teachers’ union.

The president of the union says if there’s no written deal promising more COVID safety measures, hundreds of Oakland teachers will soon be voting on whether or not to go on strike.

Teachers say they want weekly testing at all school sites and more substitute teachers – and now, the county’s superintendent is weighing in. 

“I want parents to be able to send their kids to school and not have to worry that they come back with COVID,” said Alex Ibarra, student at Coliseum College Prep Academy. 

Ibarra is one of many Oakland students taking part in a “sick out” this week. What does the district have to do to get Ibarra back in the classroom? Meet the demands from the teacher’s union which includes: 

  • Weekly PCR testing available at all schools
  • High-quality masks for all students and staff
  • More staff, including substitute teachers

“Who is teaching our children right now if there’s no teachers available, there’s not enough subs available?” said Oakland mother Dulce Fajardo.

The district says it’s meeting many of the demands – including handing out 200,0000 N95 masks for students, ordering outdoor tables and tents so students can eat lunch outside, and offering testing at certain school sites from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers say those hours aren’t enough to accommodate working families.

“I’m currently home with COVID,” said Tammy Coleman, teacher at Grass Valley Elementary. “I had a surge of COVID in the classroom since winter break … I just want to stress the importance of everyone being tested.”

The teachers’ union is asking the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, L.K. Monroe, to step in. The superintendent says her office has provided COVID training, N95 masks and test kits to schools. 

Just this week, the office dispatched 55 county employees to work in at least eight districts. 

In a statement, the county superintendent wrote:

“I very much understand the deep sense of concern and frustration that families, teachers and communities are experiencing at this time. The Omicron surge has produced some of the most difficult days we have faced in public education yet during this pandemic.”

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