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Teachers at Oakland's Frick Academy Hold Sickout Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

OAKLAND (CBS SF/BCN) – After a breakout of COVID-19 cases at Frick United Academy of Language in Oakland, most teachers, support staff and administrators called in sick Wednesday and Thursday to protect others from the virus, a teacher at the school said.

The school has had 22 cases of COVID-19 since the school reopened after winter break while 25% to 75% of students have been absent from each class, according to organizers. Yet, officials with the Oakland Unified School District have not quarantined the school, prompting teachers and staff to act.

"Like schools across the district, Frick is in crisis due to the devastating effects of the omicron variant and the negligence of Oakland Unified School District," Frick teacher Ella Every-Wortman said in a press release. "We do not take this action lightly. We take this action in solidarity with OUSD students who have called upon their teachers to join them in fighting for the safety of our schools."

The teachers and staff are demanding:

  1. N95 masks for all students and staff
  2. Weekly PCR testing for all students and staff
  3. Mandatory school-wide quarantine when we have three or more positive COVID cases
    on campus in a two-week time period
  4. Vaccine clinic at Frick United before 1/31/22 to improve vaccine access for our
  5. An emergency plan for teacher/staff absent

School is out Friday, so the two-day "sickout" will provide a five-day quarantine period before classes resume Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday Monday.

Every-Wortman said some teachers are holding Zoom classes Wednesday. Every family was contacted beforehand to tell them about the planned "sickout," Every-Wortman said.

Most of the families were supportive of the teachers' plans, Every-Wortman said.

Administrators at the school are also supportive of the teachers and support staff, organizers said.

The teachers and staff called in sick Wednesday and Thursday in solidarity with students in the district who are threatening to walk out next Tuesday unless district officials meet students' demands.

Frick Academy teachers are demanding N95 masks and weekly polymerase chain reaction testing, also known as PCR testing, for all students and staff, a mandatory school-wide quarantine when three or more people test positive for COVID-19 in a two-week period, a clinic at the school to provide vaccinations before Jan. 31, and a districtwide emergency plan for when many staff/teachers are absent.

Oakland Unified students are circulating a petition with their demands ahead of Tuesday's planned walkout, pending the district's actions.

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, more than 700 students had signed the petition.

The students are demanding KN95/N95 masks for each student, weekly rapid and PCR tests for everyone, and more space to eat outdoors safely when it rains.

The petition says students will remain out of school in front of the district's headquarters until their demands are met.

About 500 teachers walked out during a "sickout" last Friday in the Oakland Unified School District. District spokesman John Sasaki said then that the district cannot go to virtual learning because it doesn't have permission from the state.

Oakland Unified School District officials did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the sickout at Frick Academy.

© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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