Where Do Elementary Students Go During the Oakland Teacher Strike?

Where Do Elementary Students Go During the Oakland Teacher Strike?

Emerson Elementary School in East Oakland was mostly empty, as parents kept their children out of school to support striking teachers. (Photo: Shawn Wen/YR Media)

Many Oakland families are supporting the Oakland Unified School District teacher strike by keeping their children out of school. “Our families will not cross the picket line,” Michael Viola, the parent of a second grader, told KPIX.

During the strike, high schoolers can support teachers by not going to school, and joining marches or picket lines instead.

And even younger elementary school students have been absent during the strike.

The vast majority of students at Garfield Elementary of East Oakland haven’t been in school since the strike started Thursday. Leslie McLean, a literacy coach at Garfield, estimates that of the roughly 680 students who attend Garfield, 80 were present on Thursday, and only 35 showed up Friday.

McLean wanted to clear up rumors suggesting that students might be punished for skipping school during the teachers’ strike. “Students will not be suspended or expelled for participating in the strike,” she said. She blamed the confusion on mixed messaging from the district.

Parents in favor of the strike have the option of sending their children to solidarity schools, which are informal childcare spaces geared towards elementary-aged kids. Ivelisse Diaz of YR Media visited the solidarity school at Mosswood Park, which has portable classroom spaces and playgrounds. Mosswood served students from Emerson Elementary and Piedmont Avenue Elementary. 

Nell Schafer, Ben Muchin and Maya Ades were three students from Oakland Technical High School who spent the second day of the OUSD teacher strike volunteering at a solidarity school. (Photo: Shawn Wen/YR Media)

On Friday, about 50 children were in attendance at Mosswood, where they were supervised by a group of parent volunteers and high school students from Oakland Technical High School.

“I’m here because I know that during the strike, the community needs all the help it can get,” said Ben Muchin, 17, an Oakland Tech senior. Muchin was looking after a group of younger elementary school students, where he helped with snack, recess and general play. “We need to chip in where we can,” he said.

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