Students in Oakland walked out to call for virus safety; school officials in negotiation

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On Tuesday, students in Oakland boycotted school with some opting to stay home as they raise concerns on their safety amid the pandemic, SFGATE reported.

The matter is now being negotiated by the Oakland Unified School District officials, according to a district spokesperson.

A petition warning of a school walkout that will last until the demand for safety is reached was signed by about 1, 200 students. A strike is being planned by the students on Friday if they still do not get what they ask for.

In their petition, the learners said that distance learning must be done again by the district until the virus cases decrease. They also ask for KN95/N95 masks as well as weekly PCR testing for safety in the learning environment.

“We feel we have very robustly addressed their concerns,” John Sasaki, district spokesperson, said regarding the learners’ demands.

Previously, learners asked for additional spaces outdoors for them to eat safely regardless of weather conditions.

A total of 200,000 masks were recently provided by the district leaders, Sasaki said.

FILE – Elementary school teacher Carrie Landheer protests for stronger COVID-19 safety protocols outside Oakland Unified School District headquarters on Jan. 7, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. 

The outdoor eating spaces are also in the works while the district testing is at pace with other states.

This past fall, there were about 130, 000 tests conducted by the district but the majority of it is not PCT testing.

The spokesperson was not able to tell the number of students who participated in Tuesday’s walkout as the records were not provided immediately.

The “sickout” has hindered students from going to school if they wish to.

Also on Tuesday, some teachers also did not report putting pressure on the district to shut Bridges Academy, Acorn Woodland Elementary School, as well as the United for Success Academy.

The “sickout” marks the third such move by teachers in different schools in the district. Like the learners, teachers are also raising their safety concerns because of the pandemic.

Sasaki said the student walkout will not close the schools.

As the district believes, the school is the safest place for learners who want to shield themselves from infectious diseases. Vaccination has covered many of the population, mask-wearing remains, and the district moved to establish safe spaces by using air purification and ventilation.

Sasaki said that all health guidance from the federal to the local level is being followed.

Meanwhile, all students who participated in the walkout will be marked absent but Sasaki clarified that the district is “not looking to punish anybody.”