Oakland educators fight for COVID-19 safety – NBC Bay Area


No more COVID tests and no more air filters. These are some of the demands that teachers and families in Oakland will express to the school board on Wednesday. But the district says the low number of COVID among students and staff indicates that the district’s current security strategy is working.

Oakland Unified School District COVID-19 cases in classrooms are on the decline. As of September 20, 17 students and three staff members were positive. Since October 5, no classrooms have been quarantined.

But teachers like Sarah Goudy, who teaches history at Rudsdale High School, say there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to testing.

“One of the things we want the public to know is that there are only 10 testing sites in the entire district,” Goudy said. “And they’re only open 8 to 4 hours. So there’s actually very little testing.”

Goudy will be one of many teachers to rally outside La Escuelita Primary School Wednesday afternoon, before the school board holds its meeting. Among their demands, the teachers’ union wants the district to provide testing sites in each school.

“We really won’t know what the actual infection rate is, or how many cases there actually are until regular testing is available at every school site,” Goudy said.

District spokesman John Sasaki said the district has already tested more than 41,000 students and staff. Due to nationwide demand, COVID testing, including on-the-go test kits, is low.

“We’ve done more testing at Oakland Unified than any other school district in California outside of Los Angeles,” he said. “This is not possible given our capacity and given the availability of the [at-home] testing.

And there is the problem of lunch time during the rainy months. Goudy says students are encouraged to eat out, but what happens when dozens of kids are crammed into a cafeteria because it’s raining outside?

“All we have in our cafeterias are fans pointed at the ceiling,” Goudy said.

While HEPA air filters may not work well in a room as large as a cafeteria, the district says it used federal dollars to retrofit their school’s air conditioning systems.

“We have upgraded our HVAC systems in our schools with MERV16 filters and we have fans to increase airflow,” Sasaki said.


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