Over 200 students from various Oakland schools have signed a district-wide petition demanding the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) close schools amid rising COVID-19 cases.
The letter, which is addressed to OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel, eloquently states that the students “are not comfortable going to school” due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
“There’s a lot of concerns regarding safety measures and how to protect us from COVID-19, especially the highly contagious Omicron variant,” the letter reads. “We must go back to distance learning until the cases go down again.”
The letter lists a multitude of unsafe practices students are enduring including desks that are spaced too close together to social distance in classrooms, no access to the recommended N95 masks, and not enough rapid tests to conduct weekly testing, among other issues.
Their request is straightforward: supply every student with KN95 masks, provide PCR tests for weekly tests, and create an outdoor space for students to eat safely when it rains. If the OUSD cannot honor the aforementioned demands by Jan. 17, the students plan to strike by not attending school. “We will be striking until we get what we need to be safe,” the letter reads.
Oakland teachers, who share the student’s concerns regarding the school district’s COVID-19 response, organized a “sickout” in protest of in-person classes on Friday (Jan. 7) , according to The Los Angeles Times. Nearly 500 teachers called out sick and 12 schools — nine high schools, two middle schools, and one elementary school — were forced to close.
OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki told The Times that the school district has mandated proof of vaccination for all staff and students 12 and older, and has continued to implement safety measures.
“We do feel like we’ve got protections in place that are working,” he said.