OUSD and teachers agree to go back full-time in fall, can't resolve issues for rest of this year

The Oakland Unified School District and the teachers union on Sunday night agreed to go back to school full-time, in-person next year.

But how to handle the remaining weeks of this school year remains to be seen. 

Thousands more Oakland elementary and middle school students on Monday will voluntarily return to the classroom for the first time this school year.

Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District are not happy about it, and with the school year ending at the end of May, some teachers question whether it's too late in the school year to make much of an impact.

And starting Wednesday, Jamie Eder's son, Gabe, in sixth grade gets to see his friends and teacher in person for four hours once a week. Twice weekly he'll have an hour of elective sports activities, Eder said.

The hybrid lesson plan that OUSD keeps Gabe at home continuing remote learning for the other four days of the week.

"It's been very difficult to not be in school, and it's been very sad for him and for all of us as a family," Eder said. "We have mixed feelings about this beginning because we're very happy that he's going to see people, but we don't feel like it's enough."

Mark Airgood, an Oakland middle school special education teacher, says at some schools, students will be in the classroom twice a week, but for two hours a day.

"We're looking at something like 24 hours total face-to-face between now and the end of the year. It makes no sense from an educational standpoint," Airgood said.

According to Airgood, the school district is requiring teachers to be in their classrooms full-time, even on days when they are teaching remotely.

He says it's an added risk to teacher's health to be brought back to school when not all staff are vaccinated. The in-classroom instruction with a student body that is unvaccinated is also a concern, Airgood said.

The Oakland Educators Association announced Sunday it had come to a tentative agreement with OUSD for full-time in-person instruction for the fall. Classes will begin on Aug. 9. 

But to come to an agreement with teachers on how to finish out this school year, OUSD brought a pre-impasse mediator to the negotiation table.

The mediator, from the state's Public Employment Relations Board, continues to facilitate negotiations.

"I think a lot of teachers are going to be fighting very hard to be teaching remotely when they're not in front of students," Airgood said. "I think that's going to be an ongoing fight."