Back to school in Oakland; there's still no deal between district and teachers over distance learning

Today is the first day of school for Oakland students as they embark in an unprecedented journey because of coronavirus, and there’s still no deal between the district and union about what distance learning will look like.

Students in the Oakland Unified School District are heading back to their virtual classrooms after wrapping up the last school year the same way.

Parents and students have little guidance on what to expect – there’s no official plan because the district and Oakland Education Association have yet to reach a deal on what distance learning will look like. Students will likely have one hour of time with their teachers online today and then study on their own.

The two sides have been at the bargaining table since the beginning of July and still no agreement.

The union says the biggest sticking points include having small targeted groups to give students who need extra help the attention they need and bringing in substitutes to co-teach classes and deal with technical problems.

First day of school jitters are normal – but this year the unknown makes the day that much more stressful for students.

 "I'm definitely nervous and I really don't know what to expect," said Liam Dooley, an 11th grader at Oakland Tech. "It can either go well, or really bad, I think."

 His mother, Andrea Dooley, who is president of the PTSA at Tech led a last-minute Q&A on Sunday afternoon with parents, all clamoring for more information. 

"It has been pretty stressful," she said. "I mean it's very hard to know how the year is going to look. They just had a lot of questions. They want reassurance that their kids are going to be meeting teachers, learning something."

In a letter to families, OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnsen-Trammell said: "We continue to work hard with our labor partners to reach an agreement about exactly what distance learning will look like, and we look forward to reaching a deal."

It's unclear if the union and district will continue negotiations later on Monday. Johnson-Trammell will hold a Zoom news conference at 3 p.m.