East Bay parents, teachers upset over handling of omicron surge but in-person learning continues

ByAmy Hollyfield and Ryan Curry KGO logo
Friday, January 14, 2022
East Bay parents, teachers upset over handling of omicron surge
Parents and teachers in the West Contra Costa School District are fed up with the district's handling of the omicron surge.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Parents and teachers in the East Bay are fed up with the district's handling of the omicron surge.

The West Contra Costa School District was up late into the night -- deciding how to handle a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Schools are open for in-person learning and will remain open, but the public comments during Thursday night's school board meeting gave us a glimpse into how some parents are feeling about this surge.

RELATED: Teacher 'sickout' over COVID safety concerns forces closure of 12 Oakland schools

The board did not have any plans on the agenda to vote on whether to close schools. It was a special meeting just to listen to parents.

Several parents were calling for a return to distance learning.

"They are playing Russian roulette with these kids," said Stephanie Wong-Ortiz, a grandparent of a student at Korematsu Middle School. "I don't feel safe and I know many others feel the same way."

RELATED: CA official explains what state can do to keep schools open amid omicron surge

There is growing concern that more Bay Area schools could return to remote learning as omicron cases rise.

Staff this week held a "sick-out" at Korematsu and Stege elementary to protest the district's current guidance on the omicron variant.

"I am concerned? Absolutely," said Miesha Harris-Gash, special education teacher at Kennedy High School. "I love teaching, it is my passion. Trust me I know how difficult it is to communicate algebra and other subjects to students over zoom. I do think it needs to come back in some form, but it also depends on grade level."

At the meeting, board members went over their current protocols. Eligible students and staff need to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. They provided KN95 masks to staff, and surgical masks to students. However, cases are rising and many are out sick. Over 1,500 students and staff are positive for COVID-19, and dozens of classrooms are closed.

"We are sending out all our support staff to schools sites as much as possible and learning as well," said Michael Booker, with the school district.

RELATED: SF Unified classes not interrupted despite 874 sick calls in 1 day from teachers, paraeducators

Closing the schools it what some parents say would make them feel safer.

"I think they need to shut the whole system down," Wong-Ortiz said. "I know if 40 other parents heard what I am saying, they would agree too."

Board members say they will continue to work on strategies to slow the spread of the virus and they will take recommendations to the superintendent.

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