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COVID Schools: Oakland Reopens Elementary School Classrooms; Middle, High School Students To Return In Fall

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Thousands of elementary school students returned to their Oakland classrooms Monday, but the city's middle and high schools will remain in remote learning until the fall.

That's the result of a deal hammered out late Sunday night between Oakland Unified School District officials and the teachers union. Teachers still have to vote to approve the plan.

Under the agreement, which needs ratification by the union and approval by the school board, the school year would begin on Aug. 9 following public health guidelines, district officials said in a brief announcement.

A letter announcing the agreement was signed by Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown.

While the deal is likely to be criticized by many parents, the joy of returning to the classroom brought a smile to Tenzin Chunyi's face.

"I was so excited and happy that I would be able to see my friends again," the 3rd grader said.

Staying distanced has been difficult.

"It's not as exciting because you can't join and talk and share stuff because it's coronavirus," said Lincoln Elementary kindergartner Yenche Dooker Yengla.

But going back to the classroom wasn't an easy choice for Yenche's family.

"I'm worried and scared but the kids like to go," said Oakland resident and parent Tsungue Sengmo.

The district says 58% of elementary school parents indicated they'll send their children back to school for in-person learning.

"Our staff is very excited to see the kids and the kids are excited to come back to campus and see their teachers in-person for the first time so it's going to be a joyous occasion tomorrow," said district spokesman John Sasaki.

Pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade students were allowed to return to classrooms on March 30. OUSD says all schools 3rd grade through 6th grade are expected to reopen Monday and teachers will receive $2000 stipends for returning.

"OEA believes that phasing in student return on April 19 allows for all educators to complete their vaccinations, if they so choose, and for the state's targeted vaccination program to reach our most vulnerable communities," posted the Oakland Education Association on its website.

For Yenche, a kindergartener to be, it's been a long wait, but she's on the path to learning in-person for the first time.

According to OUSD, six elementary schools were unable to open last month because not enough teachers agreed to come back.

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