Students Plan to Join Oakland Teachers in ‘Sickout' to Protest COVID Conditions

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Another school “sickout” to protest COVID safety is planned for Thursday, and students may get involved next week in the East Bay.

“One day you're in school, the next day you’re not in school you’re just in limbo,” said Denise Clark, mother of a Monterro Middle School student in Oakland. “I can totally understand all schools may not have purifiers.”

At least a dozen schools in Oakland were forced to close last Friday, after more than 500 teachers called out sick.

On Wednesday, staff at Frick United Academy of Language called in sick and plan to do the same Thursday.

And it's not just teachers. Close to 1,000 students are threatening to cut class next Tuesday after the holiday weekend, unless the district moves in-person learning to online instruction and provides KN95 and N95 masks for every student. 

California School Board Association spokesperson Troy Flint says school districts all over the state are at a breaking point.

“They’ve become de facto public health agencies. They’ve been stretched beyond their core competence, and that’s education, so really I think the federal government needs to do more,” said Flint.

In response to the sickouts, the Oakland Unified School District released a statement saying in part, “Being unable to come to school does a disservice to our students and their families. Everyone on our campuses is masked, schools have excellent ventilation and air purification and most people, especially in secondary schools, are vaccinated.”

Oakland Unified also announced a “wellness day” for teachers this Friday and extended COVID leave.

Mark Airgood, a special education teacher for the district, said that’s not enough, adding that during this surge, the entire district should go back to distance learning.                            

“Every day of school is essentially a super spreader event,” said Airgood.

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