Oakland Educators Association threatens strike if district fails to reach new COVID deal


OAKLAND — The president of the Oakland Unified School District teachers’ union has given the district 48 hours to reach agreement on an updated COVID safety plan for schools in the district, saying that without an agreement, the union will vote on the opportunity to strike.

In an email to union members, Oakland Educators Association President Keith Brown said 72% of OAS members voted yes to go on strike if their bargaining demands were not met. satisfied.

“Tonight, the OAS Board of Directors voted to empower me to proceed with a formal vote authorizing a strike by all members in the event that the OUSD does not reach an agreement with us within the next 48 hours,” Brown wrote Wednesday night.

OUSD officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the possible strike.

Quinn Ranahan, a math teacher at Montera Middle School who was part of the OAS safety bargaining team, said the union has been trying to negotiate with the district since October for better COVID measures, including testing. weekly, air filtration, masks, nutritional breaks and outdoor dining areas. Since then, she said, there has been “very little movement” in the negotiations, adding that the district had refused to negotiate parts of the teachers’ proposal until the students threatened to boycott the teachers. course and to organize a demonstration.

In response to an 18-page proposal from the OAS, Ranahan said, the district sent a one-page counter-proposal and refused to negotiate on HEPA filters in cafeterias, outdoor dining safety, staffing and power outage procedures.

“We’ve been asking for these safe conditions for months and it’s exhausting to beg for things that can save lives,” she said.

Since Tuesday, students in the district have been boycotting classes by staying home and said they will continue to do so until the district responds to their demands by switching from in-person learning to online instruction. and providing PCR and rapid tests twice a week. , KN95 and N95 masks for each student, and providing more outdoor spaces for students to eat.

MetWest High School sophomores Ayleen Serrano, Ximena Santana and Benjamin Rendon created a petition, which was signed by more than 1,200 students on Thursday, after positive cases spiked at their school after returning from school. winter holidays on January 3.

“It’s just us telling the district to give us what they say they gave us because we haven’t received it,” Serrano said.

Teachers at Bridges Academy, United for Success Academy and Acorn Woodland Elementary staged a ‘sickness’ and car caravan in solidarity with students on Tuesday, forcing the district to close schools for instruction in due to a staff shortage, district spokesman John Sasak confirmed in a Tuesday press conference.

Sasaki said the absentee rate across all classes and schools was 24.6% on Tuesday – down from 20.9% in the first week of January and 28.1% in the second week. At least 230 teachers called in sick on Tuesday, compared to an average of 250 daily teacher absences on days without a teacher’s illness.

District officials said school staff are distributing 200,000 KN95 masks to students this week, installing more covered outdoor dining spaces and implementing a “robust” COVID-19 testing system across the district. . This includes 10 testing centers that opened last Friday and Monday, bi-weekly testing for secondary schools, and weekly group testing in elementary schools.

Sasaki did not comment further on the repercussions students might face for the boycott, but said Tuesday it would count as an “unjustified absence” for any student who participated.

“I want to emphasize that our goal in all of this is not to discipline anyone,” he said. “It’s about making sure our children are where they are safest, which is in school where they can learn and get the nutrition they need. We are not looking to punish anyone.

Some teachers disagree that in-person schools are the safest place right now. Jazmine Lopez, who teaches 7th grade humanities at the United for Success Academy, said she had received an email every day for the past week telling her that she had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID.

“My reaction is that it’s extremely laughable,” she said. “I invite that person to come to one of our classrooms with 33 children and let me know if they feel safe. Under current conditions that is simply not true…Our administrators are doing their best to solve these problems in many amazing ways, but when you see how many students are absent from your class, you can’t say for sure.

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