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COVID: Oakland Teachers Demand More Testing, Better Air Filtration For Safer Schools

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- After six weeks of in-person learning, some teachers in the Oakland Unified School District are complaining about a lack of COVID safety, but the district insists it is doing all it can to keep the virus out of the classroom.

"We think the district has the funds to make a weekly testing happen now at every single school site to keep things as safe as possible, for students and staff and families," says OUSD teacher Sarah Goudy.

Topping the list of concerns for the Oakland Education Association is testing. That is currently offered on-site at 10 campuses but teachers would like to see that expanded to every campus and offered weekly.

"At my school, REACH Academy, we've had over 30 positive COVID cases," says teacher Megan Bumpus. "The more cases you have, the more testing you get, but we need that testing to be consistent."

"We are very confident that the testing procedures and protocols that we have in place are working," says Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki. "We've actually seen a pretty clear decline in numbers from the first couple weeks of school."

KPIX cameras found one of the 10 testing sites open and equipped on Wednesday. But Oakland Unified says it's facing the same challenge as every school district and that's a shortage of tests. Supplies from the county and the state have been inconsistent, meaning it's had to limit the number of take-home tests it can give to staff members.

"We have orders for the state to get us more tests and we look forward to having those and distributing them to the schools," Sasaki says.

The union's other demand is better air filtration.

"Industrial strength HEPA filtration in every single large space," Bumpus says. "And we also need additional resources for outdoor dining."

Again, the district says it's working on that and it points to its COVID case dashboard as evidence that the efforts are producing safer schools. There were 30 student cases district-wide last week, that's down from more than 100 in the first week of the school year.

"As it stands, right now, it feels like we are moving in the right direction with regard to where we are with testing, with the results we're seeing and the number of cases we're dealing with," Sasaki says.

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