JOEL B. POLLAK Teachers in the San Francisco Unified Schools District (SFUSD) are planning a “sickout” on Thursday to protest what they say is the district’s failure to protect them from the omicron strain of the coronavirus, which is now surging in the state.
Hundreds of teachers are planning to call in sick, potentially disrupting schools — echoing the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) vote to refuse to work this week, which resulted in classes being canceled for the second day in a row Thursday.
The informal strike action by members of United Educators San Francisco (UESF) comes as the union is engaging in collective bargaining with the SFUSD over coronavirus measures, the San Francisco Chronicle notes.
The state is currently experiencing a coronavirus surge that has seen hundreds of Bay Area students test positive before returning to school.
581 people had signed an online petition in support of the San Francisco “sickout” as of Thursday morning, which reads, in part (original emphasis):
As of today, 12/29, SF is exceeding 1,000 cases a day. We face returning to school sites that are in violation of our health & safety memorandum of understanding [MOU] between SFUSD and UESF. We still lack the PPE (KN95 masks), comprehensive rapid testing, and improved ventilation promised us—over six months since our full return to in-person schooling. According to the MOU, we are entitled to high quality KN95 masks at each work site. Many educators report that this has NEVER been the case at their sites. The SFUSD website is touting its partnership with “SaferTogether” to provide rapid testing trucks at school sites, but these are confined to a few elementary schools, not the widespread rapid-testing we need at each site.
Let’s show them we have the power! We will spread the word among our coworkers, parents, and students, as well as speak to the press and community members. We must show this district, this city, this state, and this country that we value human life over profit; that we will defend the most vulnerable members of our community; that we are tired of expending our blood, sweat, and tears to compensate for the incompetence, greed, and complacence of our so-called leaders; that we DEMAND MORE. By withholding our labor, by reclaiming our time and our health, we send the message that if SFUSD, the City, State, and Federal Government do not invest in seriously addressing this pandemic (and the ongoing issues which make dealing with the pandemic so challenging for public schools), we can shut the whole system down. And we will!
We would ideally like a two week pause before school starts to allow time for testing and sufficient masks and rapid testing supplies to be sent to ALL sites and district offices. That is still the safest course of action.
California received $15.3 billion from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act last year to spend on improving school safety, though the Democrat-run Congress gave school districts until Sep. 30, 2024 to spend the money.
California had already received $13 billion for school safety during the pandemic under relief signed by President Donald Trump.
The SFUSD itself received nearly $100 million, which was reportedly used “to maintain core district and school operations, to stabilize student services and resources, and to retain school site and district staff”; and for “strengthening structures for student and family supports; increased services for Special Education; targeted supports for focal student groups; increased and improved transportation services; maintaining low staff to student ratios of counselors, school psychologists, and school nurses; and ongoing professional development for educators.”
President Biden blamed states and school districts this week for not obtaining sufficient coronavirus tests ahead of the omicron wave, as he sought to duck blame after promising voters in the 2020 presidential campaign that he would stop the virus.