Oakland teachers threaten to strike over COVID safety protocol as deadline looms

The Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Education Association, which represents teachers, held negotiations late Friday night, hoping to beat a midnight deadline set by the union to avoid a strike vote.

Oakland teachers, students and parents held a protest earlier in the day outside the county education offices.

The group wanted to send a message to the Alameda County School Superintendent and OUSD. They painted on the pavement and marched with signs saying "ready to strike."

The union says teachers have three requests: weekly COVID testing for staff and students access to higher quality masks, and additional adults assigned to classes when there are staffing shortages.

"School staff are stretched thin with their colleagues being home because of COVID," said Keith Brown, President of the Oakland Education Association.

Teachers say COVID testing is especially important for students too young to get the vaccine.

"There's a lot of cases in our schools." I've had about half my students in my kindergarten class most days since we've been back," said Olivia Udovic, an Oakland kindergarten teacher who also worries about her daughter. "My daughter is a high school student at Fremont High School in Oakland. Yesterday, there were five kids in each of her classes."

The union says about 10% of teachers are out sick. Tammy Coleman, a second grade teacher at Grass Valley Elementary, is one of them.

"The kids that have been identified positive in my classroom have been tested but what about the kids that have been in prolonged contact with my kids?" said Coleman.

Students say they are also worried too.

"I don't want students like me to have that worry…that if we do one wrong thing it could lead to our entire family getting COVID," said one student Alex Ibarra.

"I am definitely prepared to go on strike if that's what it takes. It's not what I want," said Udovic.

The Oakland School District says through the pandemic they've had 8 agreements with the teachers union  regarding better ventilation, safety supplies, COVID Testing and contact tracing.

RELATED: San Francisco teachers' unions, district reach tentative agreement over COVID protocol

A district spokesman issued a statement that reads in part...quote "despite the challenges we are all facing, we are very hopeful that the District and OEA will yet again find a way to reach an agreement."

Due to the pandemic, negotiations are being conducted remotely over video conferencing.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.