As public health experts reach a consensus about the low risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus within schools, Oakland parents have become frustrated at the lack of urgency by educational leaders to get kids safely back to the classroom. While the Oakland Unified School District rolled out a plan several weeks ago to begin a phased reopening on Jan. 25, it has now decided to postpone reopening, not even giving parents a new date.
COVID-19 rates have hit new records in recent weeks. We aren’t downplaying the severity of the pandemic and understand no new school reopenings can happen until the county is downgraded to the red tier. Nonetheless, OUSD must begin negotiations with the OEA immediately so that Oakland’s schools are ready to reopen once Alameda County reaches the red tier. We believe OUSD’s plan to not reopen until the county is in the orange tier is unnecessarily conservative and harmful for kids.
A wealth of evidence has been published showing that schools, particularly elementary schools, don’t contribute to community spread of the virus. A recent CDC report demonstrates that children who tested positive were not more likely to have attended school or childcare. Brown University economist Emily Oster has collected data from thousands of schools and argues elementary schools can reopen with mitigation measures in place. The New York Times, NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post have all echoed Oster’s findings.
In addition, countless public health experts and physicians believe keeping schools closed poses a