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California students plan 'strike' unless school meets their COVID demands

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Students in the Oakland Unified School District in California are demanding that better coronavirus safety measures are put in place, or else they will go on “strike” and skip school until their demands are met.

The group of students issued a “District Wide Petition” earlier this week demanding that the OUSD either switch to remote learning, or distribute KN-95 or N-95 masks for all students, two weekly PCR and rapid tests for every person on campus, and “More outdoor spaces to eat safely when it rains.”

Over 1,200 students signed the petition, which gives the school until Jan. 17 to meet their demands, or else the students will “strike” and not go to school beginning on Jan. 18 until their demands are met.

The students will then protest outside the district office building beginning on Jan. 21. 

A sanitizing station sits in Catherine Fletcher’s first grade classroom during the first day of partial in-person instruction at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. (Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
((Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images))

Around 52,000 attended OUSD schools during the 2020-2021 school year, according to data provided by the district.

According to the document, the petition is addressed to OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel and school board members.

 “This letter is to inform you that OUSD students are not comfortable going to school with the rising cases of COVID-19. There’s a lot of concerns regarding safety measures and how to protect us from COVID-19, especially the highly contagious Omicron variant. We must go back to distance learning until the cases go down again,” the petition states. “In order to ensure a safe learning environment, we demand you give us KN95/N95 masks and weekly PCR testing. If these demands are not met, we will be striking by not attending school. We will be striking until we get what we need to be safe.”

In part, the students’ claim that in-person learning is not safe because of increased coronavirus cases, no access to N-95 masks, no weekly testing, and desks are not spaced out in classrooms.

Students at Carl B. Munck Elementary School as California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits their classroom, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Oakland, Calif.(Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
((Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images))

The Director of Communications for the OUSD John Sasaki provided Fox News Digital with a statement that reads that the district is “aware” of the petition and is working to meet most of the students’ demands.

“We share the students’ concern about the spike in omicron cases of COVID-19. That concern is why we have distributed KN-95 and N-95 masks to all staff. We have also ordered enough KN-95 masks for all students. They will be distributed to students as soon as they are delivered. We have had the supplies for new covered eating spaces at dozens of schools, including new tables and shade structures, on order since, in some cases, last summer. Supply line issues have slowed their delivery significantly. Where deliveries have been made, our staff is already installing these structures at schools, and this process will continue as we receive more of the supplies,” the statement reads. 

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A teacher instructs her second graders ahead of California Gov. Gavin Newsom visiting the classroom at Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
((Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images))

Responding to the students’ concerns surrounding coronavirus testing, the district said that tests are available at ten hubs around the school district.

Sasaki also said that the school district has received 200,000 KN-95 masks and is distributing them to individual schools. 

He added that the OUSD has been in contact with the students who created the petition and said that discussions would continue.

“We are also doing weekly pooled testing at elementary schools, and have bi-weekly drop-in testing for our secondary schools. We are already meeting, or are in the process of meeting, most of the demands noted in this petition. And we will continue to work towards fulfilling the rest in the coming weeks,” the statement continues.

The move by students within the district comes after teachers staged a “sickout” on Jan. 7.

Students across the country are also demanding that their school district implement better coronavirus safety policies.

A group of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school students are planning a walkout on Friday, demanding that the Chicago Public Schools issue coronavirus “relief stipends” to students and shift to a remote learning format for two weeks.

Fox News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report

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