Some Oakland teachers not returning to in-person learning

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Empty school buildings in Oakland will soon be filled with students and staff once again, but not so fast.

“Dealing with her disappointment again you know it’s been a hard year,” mother Susie Vaks Depianto said. 

While Oakland Unified School District is welcoming some students back next week, teachers have the option to return to the classroom, leaving many students who thought they were going to be able to go back to school next week stuck at home for just a little while longer.

“We couldn’t believe our teachers wouldn’t show up, especially when hearing other teachers from neighboring schools were going to be coming back to campus,” Depianto said. 

Susie Vaks Depianto’s daughter is a first grader at Hillcrest Elementary School. 

She was planning to return next week, but is no longer able to do so because her teacher opted out.

Hillcrest Elementary School parents received an email on Wednesday that said in part, “At this time, we have insufficient staff who opted into an early return to open all K-2 classrooms in a way that keeps all of our students and staff members safe.”

Parents at Cleveland and Montclair elementary schools received a similar email.

“It’s just showing the divide between the district the principals and the teachers and the kids are left in the middle the ping pong between all this different communication that’s been happening,” Depianto said. 

The district told parents during a virtual information session that just 38-percent of teachers opted to return next week.

KRON4 asked the teachers union if there are enough teachers to teach the students who are choosing to return and they said, “We will learn next week, but our hope is that everyone who chooses to come back feels safe.”

The district told KRON4 that, “We are currently working to balance the needs of each school based on the number of students who plan to come back to class, with the available staff. We are working with each school leadership team to plan for next week and to inform their communities of the plans for students.”

One teacher explained why he’s not returning during this voluntary period.

“I don’t think that either for staff vaccine or no vaccine or for students it safe to return to the schools,” Mark Airgood said. 

Teachers are required to return on April 14, meaning K-5 students who want to go back to school will be able by mid-April but until then, they will continue to learn at home.

“We need her to go back, she is wanting to go back to school, she’s wanting to meet her friends, she’s only known over a computer screen and she’s wanting to meet her lovely teacher,” Depianto said.

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