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Reopening schools: What Oakland teachers want in new plan

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (BCN) – Oakland teachers Wednesday are demanding changes to the plan set forth by Oakland Unified School District administrators for reopening schools in the district, a teachers’ union representative said.

Teachers do not think the district should be spending time and resources making plans to reopen because it’s too risky.

The time and resources could be used more wisely for distance learning.

Teachers are also demanding that any plan for reopening include a detailed testing and tracing protocol and near zero transmission rates of COVID-19 in all ZIP codes in Oakland.

“We have to prioritize human life,” said Mark Airgood, a special education teacher at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland and a site representative for the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union. 

School district leaders submitted a plan to the Alameda County Office of Education Nov. 20 to allow the district to reopen at some point. The plan was made public Dec. 1.

District spokesman John Sasaki said the date for reopening is more of a hypothetical date because one had to be given to submit a reopening plan. The pandemic looked less severe several weeks ago than it does now, he said.

But teachers said the plan addresses none of their central demands, which include the testing and tracing and near zero transmission rates. 

“The return to face-to-face instruction is not an individual but a collective decision that must be taken in the interest of students, teachers and other schools staff, and all of Oakland,” Airgood said. 

In a statement, Adarene Hoag, a special education teacher at East Oakland Pride Elementary said, “We already know that the black, Latino/a, and immigrant communities of Fruitvale and East Oakland bear the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“All experience shows that face-to-face instruction is not safe. 100 percent Distance Learning is by far the safest means of education for everyone,” she said. 

To make their demands known, teachers and others will travel in a car caravan at 4 p.m. from East Oakland Pride Elementary School at 8000 Birch St. to a news conference that begins at 5 p.m. at 1000 Broadway in Oakland. 

Other people will be speaking about the reopening plan at the school board meeting Wednesday evening. The public portion of the meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

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