Oakland teachers Wednesday are demanding changes to the plan set forth by Oakland Unified School District administrators for reopening schools in the district, a teachers’ union representative said.

Teachers do not think the district should be spending time and resources making plans to reopen because it’s too risky. The time and resources could be used more wisely for distance learning.

Teachers are also demanding that any plan for reopening include a detailed testing and tracing protocol and near zero transmission rates of COVID-19 in all ZIP codes in Oakland.

“We have to prioritize human life,” said Mark Airgood, a special education teacher at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland and a site representative for the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union. 

School district leaders submitted a plan to the Alameda County Office of Education Nov. 20 to allow the district to reopen at some point. The plan was made public Dec. 1.

District spokesman John Sasaki said the date for reopening is more of a hypothetical date because one had to be given to submit a reopening plan. The pandemic looked less severe several weeks ago than it does now, he said.

But teachers said the plan addresses none of their central demands, which include the testing and tracing and near zero transmission rates. 

“The return to face-to-face instruction is not an individual but a collective decision that must be taken in the interest of students, teachers and other schools staff, and all of Oakland,” Airgood said. 

In a statement, Adarene Hoag, a special education teacher at East Oakland Pride Elementary said, “We already know that the Black, Latino/a, and immigrant communities of Fruitvale and East Oakland bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All experience shows that face-to-face instruction is not safe. 100% Distance Learning is by far the safest means of education for everyone,” she said. 

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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