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COVID: Some Teachers Delaying Return to In-Person Learning, Impacting Oakland School Reopening

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- While the youngest students in the Oakland Unified School District will be headed back to class for the first time this year next week, teachers opting out of in-person learning have impacted reopening plans. 

Some pre-school through second grade students in Oakland are slated to be back at school on March 30, But because teachers are not required to return to the classroom until April 19 according to the deal made with the Oakland Educators Association, many schools will not have sufficient staffing.

Those locations will have to delay their reopening, possibly until April 19.

Outside Hillcrest Elementary in Oakland, parents and children on Friday were painting a sign of appreciation for students and staff. But what was supposed to be an early return to campus for younger pre-school and elementary kids next week will be limited.

Even with an $800 incentive for those teachers to begin in-class instruction early, not everyone is returning. 

"So many kids are being left behind in this," said OUSD parent Megan Bacigalupi.

There will be no students in class next week at Cleveland Elementary, and only 60 percent of the staff will not be back at Garfield Elementary.

Bacigalpi's two children -- a kindergartener and a second grader -- will get to go to class at Crocker Highlands Elementary on Tuesday, but it will be far from full time.

She's had to leave her job to supervise Zoom school.

"It's really late. We were one of the last districts to go back and it's for really minimal hours," explained Bacigalupi. "My kids are going to get basically 40 hours of classroom time for this entire school year. Right now, we're getting 5 hours a week, Berkeley kids are getting five hours each day, five days a week for the rest of the year. There's a lot of inequity."

Timothy Douglas is a fifth grade teacher in Fruitvale who was also on the team bargaining with OUSD. He said teachers are grappling with similar issues as they try to return to the classroom.

"Childcare is a really big issue for about 40 percent of our members; figuring out what's going to happen with their own kids when they go back," said Douglas. That's one of the reasons. Some of our members haven't been able to get vaccine appointments yet."

Despite the current struggle to get students back into classrooms, the Oakland Unified School District is planning for a more complete reopening in the fall.

"We're hoping by the time we get to the fall, the conditions will allow us to be completely open with full capacity in all of our classrooms," said OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki.

The OUSD website has detailed information on current reopening plans.

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