Last week’s SF Unified and Oakland Unified School District sickouts were the shape of things to come at Bay Area schools, as Oakland teachers are pulling another one, as are many other East Bay schools.
Given the current Omicron-variant walloping, it’s difficult to tell whether school district sickouts are really labor action pushback, or if tons of students and teachers are legitimately out sick. But San Francisco Unified’s sickout last Thursday — or a combination of the action and actual illnesses — did produce a 20% absence rate among faculty. Oakland Unified teachers held their own sickout the next day, and forced the closure of at least 12 schools.
Now KTVU reports there are more sickouts to come, as Oakland Unified teachers are holding another sickout this Thursday, and teachers at a few schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District are also pulling one-day or multiple-day sickouts. The Chronicle adds that Hayward Unified has gone all-remote this week, with the district “saying more than half the teachers were out and 500 of the 21,000 students had tested positive for the virus.”
Per KTVU, families in Oakland received a letter from teachers saying, “A sickout is an act of defiance in which large numbers of teachers and/or staff call in sick. We must push our superintendent, school board directors, and Oakland Unified School District to drastically improve health and safety conditions in Oakland schools."
Teachers are calling for KN95 masks, and increased testing capacity. These are starting to roll in at some districts, but teachers say it's nowhere near enough. Meanwhile, school districts plead with teachers to show up, as they’re using retirees and parents as substitutes, or just sitting kids in auditoriums for hours on end.
"Employees coordinating with one another to call in sick together is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” West Contra Costa District superintendent Kenneth Chris Hurst said in a statement to KTVU. “This type of action is not helpful and exacerbates our current issues, causing immense challenges for the remaining school community who do show up."
Gavin Newsom did sign an executive order making it easier to hire substitutes, but that won't take effect for months. And this is not just a Bay Area issue, things are a lot worse in New York City and Chicago. And at least here, we do not have parents losing their minds and throwing anti-mask and anti-vaccine tantrums.
“We’ve been running a marathon for two years, and the rules keep changing while the finish line keeps moving,” San Francisco Unified deputy superintendent Gentle Blythetold the Chronicle. “We are fortunate to be in a place where we fundamentally agree on masking, vaccinations and science.”
Image: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash