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Oakland students petition for more Covid protection or return to online classes

Blaming supply chain issues, the Oakland Unified School District on Sunday responded to a petition circulated among district high school students last week, threatening to stop coming to school if the district doesn’t do a better job of protecting students from Covid-19.

The district said:

We share the students’ concern about the spike in omicron cases of COVID-19. … That concern is why we have distributed KN-95 and N-95 masks to all staff. We have also ordered enough KN-95 masks for all students. They will be distributed to students as soon as they are delivered.

Also:

We have had the supplies for new covered eating spaces at dozens of schools, including new tables and shade structures, on order since, in some cases, last summer. Supply line issues have slowed their delivery significantly.”

The district said where deliveries have been made, staff is already installing the structures:

As far as testing goes, like we have been doing since last year, we have testing available to students at ten hubs across the district. … We are also doing weekly pooled testing at elementary schools and have bi-weekly drop-in testing for our secondary schools.”

More than 150 high school students signed the petition, asking for KN95 masks for every student, twice weekly Covid tests for everyone on campus, and more covered outdoor spaces in which students can eat during bad weather.

The students gave the district a Jan. 17 deadline to meet their demands, most of which the district said Sunday are being met.

The student petition read:

This letter is to inform you that OUSD students are not comfortable with going to school with the rising cases of Covid-19. … There’s a lot of concerns regarding safety measures and how to protect us from Covid-19, especially the highly contagious Omicron variant. We must go back to distance learning until the cases go down again. In order to ensure a safe learning environment, we demand you give us N95 masks and weekly PCR testing. If these demands are not met we will be striking by not attending school. We will be striking until we get what we need to be safe.”

The students say the district has until Jan. 17 to meet their demands.

The district added in their statement:

And we will continue to work towards fulfilling the rest in the coming weeks. … The best thing that all students can do to protect themselves is to get vaccinated and boosted. We are offering vaccine pop-ups at multiple locations this month (as we did in November and December). We thank our students for staying in front of these issues and bringing their concerns to district leadership. We will continue to follow the guidance from local, state, and federal Covid safety guidelines.”

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