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News Update

Group of Oakland Unified educators plan “sickout for school safety” Friday

A group of Oakland Unified teachers and school staff from Skyline High School and at least five other schools are planning to call in sick Friday in protest of what they see as lax Covid safety protocols by the district.

Specifically, the group is calling on the district to purchase and distribute N95 and KN95 masks for all students and staff, provide weekly PCR testing for all students and staff, install HEPA filters in all cafeterias and other large spaces,  avoid budget cuts to classrooms or student services, provide extra support for school nurses, retroactively extend Covid leave from Nov. 7, 2021, to June 30, 2022, and take other measures, according to a news release. The group is also calling on the district to pivot to remote learning for at least two weeks in order to implement those measures and to reduce the spread of Covid in the community.

“Throughout the pandemic, (Oakland Unified, the State of California and the U.S. Government) have constantly served the interests of capital and profit rather than the interests of the workers they depend on,” the group said in the news release. “The only solution is for workers to withhold our labor until we win the pandemic response we deserve.”

The district’s teachers union, the Oakland Education Association, had called on the district to schedule a bargaining session on school safety before Monday, when students returned from winter break. Skyline teacher Harley Litzelman, one of the organizers of Friday’s sickout, said it still has not happened.

Litzelman said it’s unclear how many teachers will participate in Friday’s action, but he expects the majority of educators at each of the six schools will call out sick. It’s also unclear how the district will respond to the action, since a high number of staff absences this week due to Covid has strained the district’s substitute pool and prompted credentialed administrative staff to step in to teach classes.

In a message to parents Thursday, district officials said they will be doing “everything possible to keep schools open for our students on Friday” but that the unexpected loss of additional teachers would be “devastating” to schools and efforts to keep them open.