OUSD students threaten to skip classes if COVID safety concerns not addressed

Some Oakland Unified students plan to stay home from school Tuesday if the school district does not comply with their COVID safety demands, according to a petition from students.

Over 1,000 students have signed the petition addressed to Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel and school board members. This sickout would follow others held last week following the winter break. 

The petition states that students are not comfortable attending in-person classes amid the rising number of COVID infections fueled by the omicron variant. 

"In order to ensure a safe learning environment, we demand you give us KN95/N95 masks and weekly PCR testing," the students wrote. "If these demands are not met, we will be striking by not attending school. We will be striking until we get what we need to be safe."

Students said they gave the school district one week to meet their demands by Monday. If not, they plan to skip school the following day.

"It's nice to see a lot of people supporting the cause and trying to make sure students are adequately prepared for a safe, and just feel comfortable on campus," Oakland Tech student Emine Uysal said.

Some teachers plan to join in. 

"We've told them teachers are supporting students strike, they are welcome to come, but there won't be much instruction happening, as there hasn't been for the last couple of weeks now," United for Success Academy 7th grade humanities teacher Jazmine Lopez said. "Half of our students have been outside the classroom." 

The Oakland Unified School District countered that these demands are already being met. District spokesman John Sasaki said they've distributed 200,000 KN95 masks to all schools last week and they've installed robust testing systems where most schools are getting on-site testing twice a week – and others at least once a week.

The district also said it is in the process of installing more covered outdoor eating spaces but is still waiting on necessary materials, whiich have been backlogged for months. 

Students also plan to protest outside the school district on Friday if they're not pleased with the district's response.