OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The Oakland Unified School District has warned parents that some teachers could potentially host an “illegal sick leave” on Friday as school districts across the Bay Area face staff shortages during the COVID-19 omicron surge.
TO UPDATE: Oakland Teacher Sickout Calls for More COVID Security, Closes 12 Schools
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“We have to be clear: this action – whatever schools it takes place – is likely to disrupt basic operations and teaching significantly and have a negative impact on the safety of students,” said a statement from the district on Thursday.
The director of Oakland Tech High School meanwhile sent the parents a message asking them not to send their children to school. “It is very likely that no instructions will be given,” it said.
“We’re not going to walk into a known death trap,” said Harley Litzelman, a history teacher at Skyline High School and one of the sick leave organizers on Friday.
He said the teachers union was not involved, but the sick leave idea instead came organically among teachers who did not feel safe in the classrooms.
“We will not continue to pass COVID on to our students or bring COVID to our families,” Litzelman said.
He said teachers are calling for more security measures from the district, including providing KN95 masks for all students, providing regular COVID tests at all school locations, and reinstating COVID pay for teachers so they don’t take their due sick days need to COVID.
“If those in power are the only language we understand, if we hold back our work because it ultimately depends on it, then we will speak that language,” said Litzelman.
District officials said they did not know how many teachers would be involved or which schools would be affected. According to Doug Sovern of KCBS Radio, the Oakland Education Association, which represents the teachers, did not approve the potential illness.
Correction: I was told that tomorrow’s potential sick leave will * not * be sanctioned by the @OaklandEA union. According to OUSD, a group of teachers are planning to do this, but it is not organized by their union. https://t.co/epzXOnRAgu
– Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) January 6, 2022
CONTINUE READING: UPDATE: Oakland Teacher Sickout Calls for More COVID Security and Closes 12 Schools
The district also denied claims that schools were unsafe during the Omikron surge, noting that most people in the district are vaccinated, require masks, have HEPA air filters in classrooms, and regular testing is available.
Earlier this week, OUSD announced a mass test of COVID-19 that will distribute tens of thousands of home test kits and operate test sites during the holidays. District officials said the effort helped identify nearly 1,000 cases among students, staff and community members before classes resumed Monday.
OUSD also criticized the timing of the action. “Also, an unexpected need to keep students at home on Friday with no or no notice is likely to force families to move their children to less secure settings. Most of our parents and guardians will still have to go to work on Friday even if their child’s teacher takes part in this unapproved work action, ”the district added.
The district has posted information about its COVID-19 logs on the OUSD website.
Late on Thursday afternoon, the teachers who organized the sick leave issued their own statement criticizing the district’s response.
“Staff and students sit in half-empty classrooms and are afraid that they will be infected next and bring the disease home to their loved ones. Meanwhile, Oakland Unified continues to wall our security negotiation team and refuse to negotiate in good faith the security protocols and resources we need to keep schools open safely, ”said a statement from Skyline High School teachers who attend would.
Skyline teachers made several demands from the district, including the mass distribution of N95 and KN95 masks, weekly PCR testing of students and staff, extending COVID sick leave, and installing HEPA filters in cafeterias and large rooms. The teachers also called for no budget cuts and at least two weeks of distance learning.
The potential sick note in Oakland comes when some teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District threatened to call in sick on Thursday over COVID-19 security measures.
“You have to talk about the teachers. You have to pretend to take care of the teachers, ”Rori Abernethy, the San Francisco Unified Teacher who organized the action, told KPIX 5.
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It was initially not known how many SFUSD teachers attended.