No vaccine requirement at Oakland Unified School District

School resumes in Oakland Monday, but some teachers say they don’t feel safe going back to the classroom.

Although it is strongly encouraged, there is no requirement in Oakland for teachers and staff to be vaccinated or tested, unlike in some other districts.

For example, in Marin County, teachers, administrators and staff will be required to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 before going back to class.

And San Jose Unified is doing something similar.

Oakland, and many other districts, have no such guidelines, so some teachers say distance learning should continue until more precautions are made.

Outside Elmhurst Middle school on 98th Avenue in Oakland, hundreds lined up for goods and gear to get ready to head to class Monday.

The JTA Foundation gave away free backpacks, supplies and other goodies, and also offered up free haircuts to those who wanted to get spruced up before school.

"A haircut could be all the difference in a young man in how he feels on the first day of school.  After you get a haircut, you feel like a million bucks, right?, said Golden State Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson, who started the JTA foundation.

Beneath the fanfare, there’s also concern for everyone involved in returning to school.

Some teachers say the first thing they want is greater access to distance learning as an alternative to returning to class.

"Secondly, I want mandatory vaccination for students and staff on every site before they’re entering into face-to-face instruction," said special education teacher, Mark Airgood.

Airgood has opted to work on a small distance-learning team rather than returning to class.

He was part of a group of vocal teachers that held a car caravan outside the school districts downtown office Saturday in protest of the return to classrooms.

"I don’t want to go back into the classroom until students under 12 can get vaccinated and are required to get vaccinated," said Adarene Hoag, another special education teacher who works at an elementary school.

Hoag says she has a medical condition and is seeking a position outside the classroom since all of her students are under 12 and aren’t eligible for the vaccine.

The district superintendent says they’ll have resources to help younger kids get vaccinated, once they are eligible.

"Once we know vaccinations are available for elementary schools, we’ll provide those pop-ups in elementary’s," said Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell,  Superintendent of OUSD.

For now, everyone is preparing as best they can, which includes getting gear, and for some, the vaccine, which is something else 12-year-old Alexia Menjivar got at the school giveaway.

"‘Cause I don’t want to get sick," said Alexia Menjivar.

"She’s just adamant.  She really wants to get it.  She wants to be able to go to school and have that, because she feels like I do, where we do feel it is an extra level of protection," said Herlinda Garcia, Alexia’s Mother.  

The school district says it has testing available to teachers and staff on an ongoing basis and is urging anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, that includes teachers, staff, and students.