Oakland schools set to reopen amid surge in pandemic | #students | #parents | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

On March 20, the Oakland Education Association (OEA) narrowly passed an agreement reached by the union to force teachers to report for in-person instruction on April 14. The deal dropped many of the longstanding demands for which teachers had fought, including tying a return to school sites to low transmission rates in the county and hardest hit zip codes. Instead, after just a few days of teacher prep, students are expected to show up on April 19 regardless of the state of the pandemic.

In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Unified School District students stand in a hallway socially distance during a lunch break at Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

In tandem with the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the OEA pushed aggressively for teachers to approve their miserable agreement with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). The vote in Oakland was 1,024 to 790 in favor, or 56 percent to 44 percent. Given that only 78 percent of Oakland teachers participated in the vote, less than half of OEA members actually approved the deadly deal to reopen schools. OUSD has 2,332 teachers, who serve roughly 37,000 students.

This deal recklessly endangers the health of educators, students and families, while also callously disregarding the educational needs of students. In order to contain the pandemic and save lives, Oakland educators must prepare to fight independently of the unions through the development of the Northern California Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee. This committee must be expanded into every school and neighborhood and serve as a democratic fighting organization to resist the reopening efforts driven by the ruling elites.

A new surge of the COVID-19 pandemic has already started across the US, fueled by school reopenings, the loosening of public health measures and the uncontrolled spread of more infectious and lethal variants. Over the past week, the rate of new infections increased in 34 states, test positivity rates increased in 38 states, and hospitalizations were up in 20 states. Vaccination rates remain far below what is necessary to safely achieve herd immunity.

In Michigan, where K-12 schools have become the top source of new COVID-19 outbreaks, the average daily infection rate is over four times higher than in February. The latest surge has barely registered in California’s statistics, but the rate of new cases has leveled out and begun to climb once again.

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