Not enough substitutes to fill San Francisco classrooms with 600 teachers still absent

The omicron surge is impacting students around the Bay Area.

Some San Francisco school teachers staged a sickout to express their frustration with how the district handled the return to school following winter break.

Students at Mission High School told KTVU that dozens of teachers called out sick Thursday to make a statement.

Students said as many as 70 teachers didn't show up in protest and there weren't enough substitutes for classes to continue. Mission High is one of the schools most impacted by a teacher sick out.

Students said they arrived at school in the morning after being warned yesterday that many of the teachers would likely not be on campus.

"I think more than 70 didn't show up," said student Jazmine Keel. "All the classroom doors were closed and they had signs on them to either go to a little theater or a specific room to get attendance taken. And there barely were even enough subs to take attendance."

At this point it's not clear exactly how many teachers participated in the protest, but SFUSD said district wide 616 teachers called off work Thursday, with substitutes able to cover 29% of those absences.

Katrina Cubilo-Sicairos is a health teacher at Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School and was one of the teachers using a personal day to express concerns about working conditions.

"Those of us who have days and are not symptomatic are coming today to show the district that there are certain things that we need in order to keep our schools safe and open," said Cubilo-Sicairos.

The sickout was not sanctioned by the teachers union, but it said it understands the frustration workers are feeling.

The teachers who called in sick say the district should have tested students and staff before returning from the winter break. They're asking for increased testing going forward, adequate safety equipment and sick time for teachers so they don't feel pressured to come to work if they're ill.

"Many of us have to work. We have to go, and we only have a certain amount of sick days allotted to us," said Cubilo-Sicairos. "So, this could come out of our pockets."

Parents who were at district headquarters picking up COVID tests also expressed frustration with how the return to school was managed.

Leleana Romero has two daughters in San Francisco public schools. She picked up two tests Thursday after one of her daughters started exhibiting flu-like symptoms and couldn't go to class for three days.

RELATED: OUSD warns of possible teacher sickout amid omicron surge

Romero said in the midst of a global pandemic the school should make sure it puts precautions in place for the kids, including double masking. 

Students at Mission High also shared their concerns. Two students said the lack of testing had them worried about their own health, that's why they were getting tested.

"I was thinking of the idea of going hybrid or maybe taking a little break," said Valerie Pacheco. "But, I think it's more like having more resources. Like COVID tests and more sanitization for everything."

COVID is not just impacting public schools. Notre Dame Des Victoires, a Catholic school in the city is closed Thursday and Friday. Families tell KTVU multiple teachers called in sick.