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

The district says 503 teachers called out sick Friday, that's twice what they've seen every day this week.
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Twelve schools in Oakland were forced to close because of Friday's teacher's "sickout."

Teachers walked out because they are demanding more safety protocols at schools amid the omicron variant.

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

"We had almost a quarter of our student body absent on Monday," said Tamara Henry, an Oakland elementary teacher who's dealing with the reality of COVID in schools.

She and others participated in a "sickout" to bring attention to, what they say, is the lack of proper safety measures at schools in the midst of this omicron surge.

"It feels like a wildfire and we're trying to get out ahead of it and we need to communicate. We're on the front lines, we're with students every day seeing what's happening," added Henry.

RELATED: Bay Area school districts ramp up COVID testing as sites get overwhelmed before classes resume

A caravan of cars with teachers who called out sick today traveled from Merritt Community College down to school district headquarters.

The district says 503 teachers called out sick Friday, that's twice what they've seen every day this week. Instruction for more than 5,000 students was interrupted.

By now, many teachers already knew that the district had agreed to extend their COVID leave and to purchase better masks.

"With regard to KN95 masks, we are delivering KN95 masks to all of our schools yesterday and today. They will be available to all of our staff and we have ordered KN95s for our students," said Oakland Unified School District Spokesperson, John Sasaki.

RELATED: CDC: Testing students who were exposed to COVID an option over home quarantine

Still, teachers say there are other demands to be negotiated.

"Also, that we have a clear emergency protocol if we have more teachers out than we can manage and that we have clear communication when a student and staff member gets COVID," expressed teacher Chela Delgado.

Other teachers want mandatory testing for all students. Olivia Udovic says it's up to her to make sure families sign their kids up for testing.

"We have to do the leg work of getting all our families to sign up for that. I have to put in a lot of effort to get my class pretty much all sign for it," said Udociv

The district says it has no plans to make testing mandatory.

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