OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Oakland Unified School District officials said nine schools were closed Thursday due to a teacher sickout, despite the district recently coming to a tentative agreement with unions regarding COVID safety protocols.
OUSD officials did not say which schools were impacted by Thursday's action. Educators held a similar sickout last week asking for better masking and testing.
The sickout came the day after some students announced they also planned to stay home to demand better safety measures in the classroom amid the omicron surge.
"I wanted to feel safe at school," said Blue Lopez, a sophomore at Fremont High School.
Lopez is one of the student leaders organizing Thursday's sickout, where students will stay home to protest what Lopez said is a lack of safety measures in the classrooms.
"When students don't go to school, the district is losing money. So I feel like at this point, that's the only thing that will make them listen," Lopez told KPIX 5.
Lopez said the idea for students to stage a sickout came after OUSD teachers organized a sickout last week. Both students and teachers are asking the district for more regular COVID testing as well as N95/KN95 masks for everyone.
Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown said educators stand in solidarity with students.
"I encourage the Oakland Unified School District, I encourage our elected officials to listen to the students, said Brown. "Sit down, meet with the students. It can be done virtually, but listen to their demands and also include our students in decision making."
As of Thursday at noon, OUSD officials had not said how many students were out Thursday.
There is also a petition with more 1,200 student signatures urging a return to virtual learning until testing and masks are more readily available or students say starting next Tuesday, they're going on strike.
"We also have another option, which is keep us safe, so you either keep us safe or we go back to distance learning," Lopez said.
The student stressed she does not want to go back to virtual classes, but said it seems like that is the only option without proper safety measures.
Oakland Unified School District released a statement in response to KPIX 5:
"The District is aware of a petition that some OUSD students are circulating. We share the students' concern about the spike in omicron cases of COVID-19. That concern is why we have distributed KN-95 and N-95 masks to all staff. We have also ordered enough KN-95 masks for all students. They will be distributed to students as soon as they are delivered. We have had the supplies for new covered eating spaces at dozens of schools, including new tables and shade structures, on order since, in some cases, last summer. Supply line issues have slowed their delivery significantly. Where deliveries have been made, our staff is already installing these structures at schools, and this process will continue as we receive more of the supplies. As far as testing goes, like we have been doing since last year, we have testing available to students at ten hubs across the District. We are also doing weekly pooled testing at elementary schools, and have bi-weekly drop-in testing for our secondary schools. We are already meeting, or are in the process of meeting, most of the demands noted in this petition. And we will continue to work towards fulfilling the rest in the coming weeks. The best thing that all students can do to protect themselves is to get vaccinated and boosted. We are offering vaccine pop-ups at multiple locations this month (as we did in November and December). We thank our students for staying in front of these issues, and bringing their concerns to District leadership. We will continue to follow the guidance from local, state, and federal COVID safety guidelines."
Meanwhile, the leadership team at Skyline High School sent out a message to parents Wednesday night which said, "We have been notified that approximately 80% of students and staff will not report to work tomorrow (Thursday, January 13) as part of an unsanctioned sick out. Therefore, while our school will still be open tomorrow, it is highly likely that no instruction will be provided and so we are asking you to not send your child to school."
Some teachers from Skyline High School and a half a dozen other campuses said they will also call in sick on Thursday in solidarity with the students. No word yet on whether that will possibly extend to next week during the student strike that is planned.
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