Optimism, excitement as 34,000 Oakland Unified students return to school

Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Optimism, excitement as 34,000 OUSD students return to school
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Teachers, students and staff across 77 Oakland Unified elementary, middle and high schools are marking day one of the 2023-2024 school year.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- They're back! Teachers, students and staff across 77 Oakland Unified elementary, middle and high schools are marking day one of the 2023-2024 school year.

On Monday morning, campuses welcomed 34,000 kids. Among them was fourth grader Marguerite Kott who told ABC7 News, "I got up and then I got dressed. Then I went downstairs and I ate breakfast. And then got my backpack ready and then I started walking to school."

Fourth grader Nyla Muhammad shared, "Best thing about being back is seeing my friends."

"What I'm looking forward to is learning other stuff," she continued.

This is the first actual opening day with no imposed COVID restrictions.

"'Cause even last year when we opened we were still like, 'Do we let parents back on campus?' We have to invite them in and then ask them to leave. Like this tie we let them come and mingle in the campus theater and our drums, the way we used to do it," explained the founding principal of EnCompass Academy Elementary, Minh-Tram Nguyen.

Along with the backpacks and lesson plans, everyone is carrying with them hope for a seamless start. This comes after an admittedly rough last school year which ended in a nearly two-week-long teachers' strike.

VIDEO: Oakland families enjoy last day of summer before school starts, are optimistic about new year

"Last year was a bit rough across the district," OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki told ABC7 News. "We had some incidents that we didn't want to see. We had, obviously, still a lot of pandemic issues were going on. And so we're really looking forward to having brand new start this year."

Sasaki said OUSD still has several dozen teachers' openings, but added the district is in better shape than many others. OUSD recently had a New Teacher Institute where they trained about 160 or so new teachers.

Parents explained they're pushing forward with optimism.

Sudan Muhammad explained, "She'll make new friends... learning... the whole school experience..."

"I went here four years ago," he joked, as he stood outside of Claremont Middle School. "But no, I was an alum here and Claremont was a great experience for me."

VIDEO: Beyond backpacks, OUSD students carry added excitement over return to school after teachers strike

Crispin Kott shared, "Hopefully everything goes smoothly for everybody. We're looking forward to seeing all the teachers and all of her classmates and can't wait for her to get started."

On Monday morning, the OUSD Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Board of Education Directors, even the front office staff from the Golden State Warriors joined other district partners, touring eight different campuses - in a sense, rolling out the red carpet for the morning's big return.

Dr. Johnson-Trammell told ABC7 News, "You always have to look forward. You always have to have a spirit of optimism and hope. Even with a lot of the challenges, everyone's heart is really about how to improve things for students and families. So, that needs to be the focus and that'll continue to be the focus."

"We have some intelligent children," Parent Sudan Muhammad reflected. "So, waiting for them to learn more."

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