Teachers at several Oakland schools plan to call in sick Thursday for an unauthorized sickout, according to the Oakland Unified School District and a teacher in the district.
Most teachers and support staff at Frick United Academy of Language in Oakland called in sick for Wednesday as well as Thursday to protect others from COVID-19, Frick teacher Ella Every-Wortman said.
The school has had 22 cases of COVID-19 since it reopened after winter break, while 25 to 75 percent of students have been absent from each class, according to organizers. More than half of all teachers, staff and administrators combined have been absent each day.
Yet, officials with the Oakland Unified School District have not quarantined the school, prompting teachers and staff to act. Only one teacher did not participate in the “sickout.”
“We have an outbreak,” Every-Wortman said.
School is out Friday, so the two-day “sickout” will provide a five-day quarantine period before classes resume Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday Monday.
Every-Wortman said some teachers held Zoom classes Wednesday. Every family was contacted beforehand to tell them about the planned “sickout,” Every-Wortman said.
Most of the families were supportive of the teachers’ plans, Every-Wortman said.
The number of schools affected by “sickouts” may be smaller than last week, when teachers at 12 schools called in sick, affecting more than 8,000 students, according to OUSD.
“Being unable to come to school does disservice to our students and their families,” OUSD officials said in a statement. “Our schools are among the safest places for students to be.”
Everyone is masked, schools are well-ventilated and many people in secondary schools are vaccinated, according to the district.
“Unauthorized sickouts, especially on short notice, create unnecessary challenges for families who still need to work and may not have easy access to child care,” district officials said.
“For older, more independent students, it can present additional challenges because they may not stay home,” according to district officials. “Public health and education leaders at the county, state, and federal level all say that keeping students in school is the best way to work through this stage of the pandemic, and that is what we intend to do.”
The teachers and staff called in sick Wednesday and Thursday in solidarity with students in the district who are threatening to walk out next Tuesday unless district officials meet students’ demands.
Frick Academy teachers are demanding N95 masks and weekly polymerase chain reaction testing, also known as PCR testing, for all students and staff, a mandatory school-wide quarantine when three or more people test positive for COVID-19 in a two-week period, a clinic at the school to provide vaccinations before Jan. 31, and a districtwide emergency plan for when many staff/teachers are absent.
Oakland Unified students are circulating a petition with their demands ahead of Tuesday’s planned walkout, pending the district’s actions.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, about 1,200 students had signed the petition.
The students are demanding KN95/N95 masks for each student, weekly rapid and PCR tests for everyone, and more space to eat outdoors safely when it rains.
The petition says students will remain out of school in front of the district’s headquarters until their demands are met.
About 500 teachers walked out during a “sickout” last Friday in the Oakland Unified School District. District spokesman John Sasaki said then that the district cannot go to virtual learning because it doesn’t have permission from the state.