Berkeley teachers, students join Occupy Movement at general strike

Hundreds of teachers and students from Berkeley and Oakland schools participated in the general strike Wednesday in Downtown Oakland, where upwards of 3,000 protesters marched in the streets in support of the Occupy movement.

In the Berkeley Unified School District, 24 employees — all teachers — asked for the day off Wednesday, with 17 of those from Berkeley High School, according to district spokesperson Mark Coplan.

All the teachers who were absent notified the district by Monday, so there were no issues with finding substitutes, he said. The district employs about 900 teachers.

According to Coplan, 788 of the approximately 3,400 total students at the high school were absent for at least part of the day Wednesday. The average number of student absences at the high school — which includes partial and all-day absences — between Oct. 6 and Oct. 28 was 546 students per day, according to Coplan.

“My understanding from the kids who were participating is that there were a number of kids who went to the rally in the morning, came back to school, and went back to the rally in the afternoon,” Coplan said.

In the Oakland Unified School District, 294 teachers — of the district’s approximate 2,000 teachers — were absent Wednesday, according to district spokesperson Troy Flint. Twenty to 25 employees in the district are absent on a typical Wednesday, he said.

In a Monday newsletter, the district said that while they agree with the sentiment of Occupy Oakland, students planning to participate in the protest would not receive excused absences.

“There weren’t any reports of mass student absences at any particular school,” Flint said. “I’m sure the numbers were larger, but they weren’t egregious.”

According to Flint, the district does not collect student attendance on a daily basis, so the exact number of students who were absent will not be available until next week.

About 268 of the absent teachers followed the formal process, which was to apply for personal leave by Monday so the district could find substitutes for missing teachers, according to Flint.

“We were pleased with the many people that followed that protocol,” Flint said.