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Teachers at West Contra Costa Unified plan sick-out protests throughout the week

Groups of teachers at West Contra Costa Unified are planning sick-outs throughout the week in protest of what they believe are insufficient safety measures by the district.

Similar actions were taken by groups of teachers in Oakland and San Francisco last week.

A number of teachers at Korematsu Middle School participated in the sick-out protest today, and teachers at Stege Elementary plan to protest Wednesday, said Stege teacher Hannah Geitner. According to the district, nine of 32 Korematsu teachers called in sick. All district schools were closed Monday and last Friday due to high numbers of Covid cases and staff shortages.

Superintendent Chris Hurst, in a statement Tuesday, condemned the protests.

“This type of action is not helpful and just exacerbates our current staffing issues,” Hurst said. “In the end, it is students and families who are not
served when staff coordinate together to not show up at school.”

Though teachers at each site have their own set of demands, Geitner said, Stege teachers are calling on the district to provide KN95 masks, rather than just surgical masks, for all students. Currently, the district has only committed to providing two KN95 masks a week to employees and surgical masks for students. The teachers are also calling for weekly required testing for students and a formal Covid-safety plan for the Omicron variant from the district.

Geitner said the school is seeing a lot of families keep their children home from school, either because they don’t feel comfortable sending them amid the Covid surge or because they’ve had others in the family get sick. The school is also short on teachers right now, Geitner said. Two are out on Covid leave, and two other classes don’t have a full-time teacher.

“It’s been really tough at our site,” Geitner said.

The Stege teachers who plan to participate in the action sent emails to their students’ parents letting them know they would be calling out sick through next Tuesday, Jan. 18.

District spokesman Ryan Phillips said the district doesn’t expect widespread sick-outs, and will have enough administrators and substitutes to prevent schools from having to close their campuses.