Students and teachers in Oakland, California talk about a planned strike against unsafe schools
the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) encourages high school students to Contact us today to organize opposition to the school’s deadly reopening.
More than 1,200 students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), located in the San Francisco Bay Area, have pledged to strike next Tuesday amid a growing wave of savage teacher rebellions and students opposed to the deadly reopening of schools.
OUSD met with student leaders on Friday to tell them they had purchased N95 masks and outdoor seating structures, two of the petition’s demands. The Oakland Student Strike Twitter and the Instagram page, however, issued a statement stating that “students will strike starting Tuesday, January 18, as schools are still unsafe without COVID testing.”
Striking Oakland students will join tens of thousands of teachers and students in Chicago, Portland, New York, Los Angeles, Massachusetts and recently France, to take a stand against the policy of mass infection and herd immunity imposed on families. Millions of students, teachers and families around the world oppose the policy, promoted by the Biden administration and other capitalist governments, based on the insistence that workers must learn to “live with the virus”.
The fact that thousands of people die daily from the virus in the United States is a matter of indifference for the Democratic and Republican parties, as both serve banks and corporations who demand that nothing be done to stop the spread of the virus. which interferes with corporate profits.
the World Socialist Website spoke to dozens of Oakland students and teachers at a mass meeting Wednesday, urging them to attend the next West Coast Safety Committee meeting Sunday at noon. The WSWS also conducted interviews with student leaders and teachers in Oakland.
Nick, a student at Skyline High School, described the conditions at his school. “We have over 20 teachers absent due to the pandemic right now. And most classrooms are half empty, and when they’re not, it’s very uncomfortable. We are short of substitutes, so teachers who are not sick have to contract out more classes.
When asked if he thought his school was a healthy learning environment, Nick replied, “No. As much as I mean “yes”, it’s a no. We do not have proper masks. We barely have enough cleaning supplies. And we don’t make enough room for students to socially distance at all. We’re back in the system we were in before and it’s still (pardon my language) shit. …We don’t have temperature checks, which I think are more than necessary…
“[School] right now is still not sure. Even though I like coming to school and seeing my friends and teachers, it’s not worth it.
Nick added: “Most of my friends right now are sick at home or at home because their families are sick.”
Blue is a student at Fremont High School at OUSD. Fremont students staged a sickness on Wednesday and played a leading role in the now 1,200 student-strong petition to strike next week.
Blue told the WSWS that the district should have had basic security measures in place long ago. Now they said “the situation is so difficult because so many COVID cases are increasing. We see all of our friends being pulled out of class and then we get an email hours later or sometimes minutes later even saying we’ve been in contact with someone with COVID.
Blue pointed out that the work stoppages and protests were student-led and denounced efforts by the mainstream media, most recently the far-right publication Breitbart, to discredit students by claiming they were puppets of teachers.
“It’s very upsetting that they think we don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand the concepts of what affects us,” Blue said.
Blue sharply criticized the attitude promoted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky that the killing of people who were “initially sick” with COVID-19 is “encouraging news.”
“I’ve seen a lot of arguments that say, ‘well, only people with diseases and disabilities die’, and I’ve said that many times. It’s eugenics, and it’s disgusting. If you use this argument, you are a monster. You use the same arguments the Nazis used in the past. “She was already dying and I just accelerated the killing process.” You have to be cold-blooded to use this argument. One of those people is my little sister. You’re saying my little sister deserves to die.
The student further explained his sister who was struck down with COVID during the holidays.
“My little sister is premature, she is fed by tube, has weak lungs and heart. We took her to the hospital but they said they couldn’t take her because she wasn’t sick enough and there were so many sick children and babies with COVID that ‘they had no more room for her and couldn’t take her. Fortunately, she got better, but she could very well have died. It’s not the hospital’s fault. I would never blame the hospitals, but who’s to blame are the people spreading COVID and [the] people in power who don’t want to help us.
The WSWS also spoke with Thomas, an OUSD teacher.
I have been teaching for 15 years in different countries and states. I’ve never had two weeks like this. I have never been so afraid for my students. This is the first time I’ve gone to work legitimately scared.
Speaking to my students today, I don’t think anyone is hiding anything from them. They see how bad things are going this month. Primary school children are naive, because of their age, but middle and high school students know this, they understand what is happening.
I was directly exposed on Monday by one of my students who I work with directly. He asked me if I should self quarantine for 10 days and stay home. No, the policy is that I have to go to school until I see symptoms. It just doesn’t make sense. This does not correspond to any medical advice for any virus.
Thomas explained that most students “don’t have the right mask” and teachers can’t ventilate their classrooms because air quality is often poor in Oakland.
Our district gives us no support. Our school board this summer, during the pandemic, getting ready to resume face-to-face teaching in August, they didn’t even meet! They haven’t had any meetings this summer.
Quite insulting to know that they don’t even show up at the bargaining table, they don’t even have meetings during the summer so that we can avoid all this. We could have had the right masks, the right filtration and the right ventilation. We could have had it all.
He explained that the school board, in agreement with the government, “was risking our health to obtain herd immunity, all to make the economy better”.
He continued, “I think a lot of students in Oakland have personal experience of losing loved ones. [The students] are seeing the impact, as there are a lot of people who weren’t able to switch to Zoom for work last year. Many student families were the ones who never got a break, and they were the ones who got sick.
Thomas also noted, “I don’t see our union being there for us right now.
The WSWS spoke with Hector, a teacher in the Freemont School District, south of Oakland.
I fully support Oakland students and teachers in standing up for themselves and their families.
In our district, cases have also increased. There was only a message that “schools are the safest and best places for students” from the administration, the governor and the union. There wasn’t even talk of a week-long shutdown during Omicron’s worst.
Schools are a known vector of the virus and will only worsen the situation in hospitals, which last Monday reached record numbers across the country. He continued,
Every school is a sinking ship as more and more teachers and students fall ill. When students go home sick, teachers are forced to try to provide individual learning plans and keep track of the class. There is no reference from local, state and federal officials to previous calls to shelter in place and keep only essential workers on the job. Now everyone is “essential” because corporations, governments and unions have all bought into the mantra of keeping kids in school so parents keep going to work to boost record profits.
Hector then described the situation at his school:
After winter break we received an N95 mask which is not suitable for many of us as it is a one size fits all approach. Our classrooms have 30 to 34 students. Parents began to keep students home for fear they might contract COVID. Teachers are called in to cover their preparation periods as there are no substitutes. Everyone is exhausted and fed up.
He wanted to let teachers and students at Oakland High School know:
Your actions as students and teachers are inspiring and will no doubt lead to further walkouts in the weeks to come at schools across the Bay Area, state and nation as we fight for our survival. and a future safe and virus-free learning environment. Don’t think for a minute that your action is not important, you are fighting to save lives.
the World Socialist Website and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality encourage young people and teachers to contact us today to share the conditions at your school and learn more about joining the growing opposition from teachers and students across the country and the world.