April 2021 Newsletter

Return to in-person instruction

On March 30, many schools across Oakland reopened for part-time in-person instruction, and next week, all OUSD schools will have part-time in-person classes for students in TK through 6th grade and prioritized groups in 7th through 12th whose families have chosen to participate.

I was glad to be able to welcome some students back at a few campuses before Spring Break, and look forward to seeing more students at more schools in the coming days. I am very grateful to the tremendous effort by principals, teachers and school staff to make this process work as smoothly and safely as possible.

At the same time, I know the limited hours and staggered reopening dates are frustrating for many families. We arrived at this plan based on the need to maintain the current distance learning schedule and groupings, since a little less than half of families chose to stay entirely with that model, while also wanting to add some in-person instructional time where teachers would be working with just the in-person students. This schedule was a way to keep teachers focused at any one moment either entirely on students online, or entirely on in-person students, but never having to juggle both at the same time, as well as to prevent the disruption of reassigning students to new teachers at this point in the school year.

Welcoming students back at Sankofa United

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Teachers Ratify Agreement for Return to In-Person Instruction

Yesterday it was announced that teachers voted to approve the agreement with OUSD that goes through the end of this school year.

As a result, in-person instruction will start on March 30 for our most vulnerable students (such as students in SDC classes, English language learners, unhoused students, and foster youth) and all students in grades TK through 2nd grade who wish to attend. There will also be an option to remain in 100% distance learning for those families that chose to do so in the survey. By this date, Alameda County is very likely to be in the orange tier.

On April 19, all students in grades 3 through 6 will also have the option to come back for in-person learning.

I deeply appreciate the effort by teachers and school site staff to switch gears so close to the end of the school year and recognize that it is an enormous effort. The schedules for each site are still being determined and the hours of in-person instruction may be limited for this two-month period.

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March 2021 Newsletter

Updates on the Return to In-Person Instruction

There is light at the end of the tunnel. As we approach the anniversary of the pandemic shutdown, I know it has been an extremely difficult year, between the loss of life that has struck so many families, and the isolation that has hit us all. 

The pace of negotiations between OEA and OUSD had slowed down for a while, but it has picked up in the past week, and will move further now that Gov. Newsom signed AB 86 yesterday. This new law prioritizes vaccines for educators and incentivizes California schools to return to some in-person instruction by April 1 for our most vulnerable students, and all students in grades TK-5 whose families want it. 

The plan and the return date in Oakland are still pending negotiations, and I am expecting there to be significant developments to announce next week. However, I want to give the following updates now, which are keeping me hopeful in this challenging time:

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February newsletter

February is Black History Month, and every month is a good opportunity to learn from and reflect on the African-American experience in Oakland. I was moved by this Oaklandside article on some amazing Black history projects in OUSD. I also want to wish a happy Lunar New Year to those who celebrate it.

Planning for In-Person Instruction

I know that many families and teachers are struggling with the isolation and mental stress of distance learning, and many have lost loved ones or friends to the pandemic as California reached the terrible milestone of being the state with the most pandemic deaths in the nation. I urge everyone to keep using masks, to practice social distancing, and to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, in order to continue driving down the infection rates as quickly as possible.

Our district continues to work hard on the path back to in-person instruction, but to be honest progress has been slow and frustrating this week.

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Follow-up to last week's forum: Planning for a Safe Return to Schools

Thanks to all who participated in our forum on Thursday night on planning for reopening schools. We appreciate you taking the time to be involved. There was a lot of useful information shared by medical professionals and Oakland Unified staff. If you missed it, there is a recording on my website

However, I was troubled by the many negative comments in the chat questioning teachers’ intentions. A couple of parents also reported that a teacher snapped at them in one of the breakout groups. 

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Newsletter for Jan. 10, 2021: Invite to first monthly forum and board update

I am excited to be the new Oakland Unified School Board Director for District 1.

I want to start by inviting you to an info session I am hosting with the district, teachers, families and staff on Planning for a Safe Return to Schools, which will be on Zoom on Thursday, January 21 at 5:30 pm. You can RSVP at this link and then we will send you the Zoom link closer to the date.

This is the first in a series of forums I plan to host on a monthly basis on the issues confronting the district. I will share my thoughts on reopening schools further down, but first want to give a few updates:

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Dec. 15, 2020

I am excited for my new role as Oakland School Board Director for District 1, and will be sworn in on January 4th. But this is a sobering time to be taking office—like so many, I am mourning friends I have lost this year, and am grateful for essential workers, including all those who have supported the transition to distance learning, which would have been unimaginable a year ago.

 

Reopening Schools

The pandemic has been very hard on students—my own son is struggling with distance learning, and many families are stretched incredibly thin supporting their children while also handling jobs, economic stress, and the health risks, illness or even loss of family members. Everyone wants to reopen schools as soon as it is safe to do so, but people differ on what is safe depending on their experience and perspective.

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