Student protests against COVID-19 safety measures in the Oakland Unified School District began with a class boycott on Jan. 18 and continued with a Zoom call organized by student leaders from multiple schools on Friday.
Utilizing a petition as well as emails and social media sites, student leadership brought together a list of demands in order to keep their school district safe. They join many schools across the nation protesting for better COVID-19 safety protocols among the surge of Omicron variant cases.
Sadaria Smith, a junior at Skyline High School, said, “Students have a right to be heard, because they have to put their life at risk with every variant spreading around … because being surrounded by a lot of people is suffocating and it’s not as efficient as people think it is.”
Student leaders argue that the increased cases at school do not make them feel safe enough to go back into in-person learning — no access to the recommended KN95 or N95 masks or a designated place for people to eat safely affected their learning environment as well as their health.
During Friday’s meeting, students said many classmates stayed home that week. Although the number of absences across the district was about 23% on average that week, absences have been much higher during the Omicron surge, around 20%.
That Thursday, Skyline closed due to low attendance.
For weeks, students, teachers and staff at the school faced confusing policies as cases rose after the winter break. The teachers responded by holding their own strike on Jan. 7, although the students felt the teachers’ demands did not reciprocate towards the students.
The student strike continues — their petition received more than 12000 signatures to date to put towards the leaders at OUSD. The petition demands that OUSD shift from in-person learning to online learning unless they make it safe by providing:
• The recommended KN95/N95 masks in school for every student
• PCR and rapid COVID-19 tests for everyone on campus one to two times a week
• And more outdoor spaces to eat safely when it rains
So far, OUSD has met two of the three demands with KN95 masks given out to students last Tuesday. Along with this came issued tables spread out across campus for many schools for better outdoor eating. The only demand not met was the PCR and rapid tests to which OUSD has responded is more difficult to fulfill.