Reopening schools: Oakland Unified hopes for in-person learning within next few months

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Jan. 25 was the day Oakland schools were initially supposed to re-open following the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 -- but that did not happen.

"Based on what was going on in the community and, really across the nation, we could not afford to open on the 25th," says John Sasaki, with the Oakland Unified School District. "We really want to get our students back into as normal an education model as soon as possible."


Sasaki hopes that can happen within the next few months.

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"It will be, in all probability, a hybrid model, where some of them come in one day, the others come in another day. So it could be two days on, two days off," explains Sasaki.

The district held a webinar Monday night to provide an update on where the district is in preparation for schools to re-open.

Some of the changes include classrooms being reconfigured to keep student at six feet apart, and with fewer students per class. All students, starting with kindergarten, will have to wear masks. And work is being done to improve ventilation, which the district says is a big concern for parents.

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"Right now, our facilities team is installing the MERV 16 filters at all of the school sites that have forced air systems. And they are on track to get that done by early February," said OUSD's Sailaja Suresh, during the webinar.

Suresh says Alameda County allows for schools to open when California is in the red tier, but Oakland is playing it safe, waiting to drop to the orange tier.

Just when and how many teachers are able to get vaccinated, may also speed up the re-opening process.

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In a statement to ABC7 News, the Oakland Education Associations says negotiations are progressing, but slowly.

The union says: "We are glad that the district's plan is in compliance with state guidance, but we feel that there are some areas where we can do better if we work together. Our number one goal is to make sure that our students and our community are safe."



"We see vaccinations as an important part of a layered defense against the virus, including making sure that our facilities are safe and that ventilation is adequate." according to the statement by the Oakland Education Associations. "We would also like to see vaccinations available for students and families as soon as possible. Another important factor is testing and contact tracing. It's important to put all of these things together to keep the community safe. Vaccinations are very important and very promising, but we can't lose sight of other mitigation factors that are also important."

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