Oakland teachers' strike looms as parents prepare for possible cancelled classes

Oakland parents are frantically preparing for the potential of no classes on Thursday if teachers hit the picket lines.

After six days and nights of intense contract negotiations, the Oakland teachers’ union and Oakland Unified School District have still not reached a contract agreement.

"We’re scrambling," Oakland parent Emily Davis said. "We’re trying to get all of our kids together and organize a big parental coverage of what may or may not be a strike tomorrow."

The Oakland Education Association announced Monday they plan to strike Thursday, May 4 if no deal was reached by then.

The looming strike comes after months with no contract and negotiations over educators' pay, working hours and class sizes. Additionally, the union wants added mental support for students and additional resources for those with disabilities.

The district said late Thursday in an email that it believes a deal with the teachers’ union is within reach.

"Our hope is that we will be able to reach agreement with OEA members on compensation and other issues being bargained, and not hold up their much-deserved pay increase," the email said.

Both sides were still at the bargaining table Thursday evening with no set deadline to stop talks.

But time is ticking and tension is building among some Oakland parents.


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"I’m frustrated," Davis said. "I just want them to work it out like adults and set a good example for our students that you can negotiate and find common ground."

Many parents say they’re supportive of teachers but disappointed after hearing from them that the district isn’t moving fast enough.

"We would not allow our teachers to show up unprepared to the classroom, and we shouldn’t let the district do that either," parent Betsy Twitchell said.

The district has maintained it is bargaining in "good faith" and working "in a collaborative spirit" with the OEA to reach a deal.

So far, Oakland Unified has not laid out specific district-wide plans for parents and students if a strike happens.

"We have no idea if we should be dropping our kids off tomorrow or staying home," Lakisha Young, founder of literacy-focused nonprofit The Oakland REACH said. "It’s just going to be chaos."

Young has been against teachers picketing from day one and said children will suffer more learning loss.

Additionally, she said the disparities exposed during the pandemic will be exasperated.

"We have families in the hills, they’re already getting strike schools together, they’re already organizing how they keep their schools open and parents will go in and support and that’s great for them," Young said. "But in the flatlands, we will not have that same experience. Where will our families go?

The district did say in an email families would receive important information if a strike were to occur late Thursday.

This all comes with just a few weeks left to go in the school year and state testing underway. With grades not yet finalized, teachers are left in the middle.

"They don’t want to be out of the classroom any more than any of us parents want our kids to be out of the classroom," Twitchell said.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at  brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU