Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is taking initiative and working with the city and vendors to prepare for full-time distance learning for the upcoming Fall semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic shut down.
OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell announced on July 17 that OUSD is prepared to open the 2020-21 school year in distance learning mode only. Plans were further solidified after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement, also on July 17th, that school districts in counties that are on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist cannot open schools for in-person instruction until their county has been off the watchlist for 14 straight days. Alameda County is on the watchlist due to “elevated disease transmission.”
OUSD Chief of Staff Curtiss Sarikey explained that planning started in April with the purchase and distribution of 18,000 Chrome Book computers.
“Ed Fund donated $12.5 million, and we have purchased 25,000 more Chrome Books to distribute to families that are theirs to keep. In addition, we’re working on hot spots and broadband capability for another 25,000 students who need connectivity,” said Sarikey.
OUSD has served over 4 million breakfasts and lunches since March. Partnering with outside vendors, OUSD has been able to distribute 32,000 to 15,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables to families with their “box” program.
Families that can afford to pay $35.00 per box are helping other families that cannot afford to pay. OUSD distributes 4,000 boxes a week and when necessary also provides deliveries to the families
“We are providing food security and health care,” Sarikey said. “We’re currently identifying children that need tech support and we continue, in addition to serving breakfast and lunch, prepare 18,000 family grocery bags for a family of five. We have 24 sites for distribution, and we do this two times a week with enough food to provide for the family until the next distribution.”
In terms of teacher retention and hiring, Sarikey said there has been an increase in Latino and African American hiring. OUSD is pleased that the retention rate this year is better than usual.
Accommodations for childcare have been established as a one-stop-shop resource, and OUSD is working with the City of Oakland, who also provides childcare, which at this time is not maxed out.
“Family Wellness is our focus, we’re helping families, as well as staff and their families navigate through this difficult time by providing resources. We will have a family guide available when people come to register on August 3rd,” said Sarikey.
Oakland Educators Association (OEA) and the California Teachers Association (CTA) are in full support of the full distance learning model. Thirty teachers have been working on remote learning curriculum and teachers were trained this summer. Starting Monday, further training regarding wellness checks, aspects of distance learning, and robust support of teachers to assure they have the training and tech support they need will begin.