East Bay teachers hold press conference to oppose reopening schools

Photo of Willard Middle School
Ariel Hayat/File
Teachers and parents of students in the East Bay conveyed their disagreements with schools potentially reopening. Adarene Hoag, a teacher at East Oakland Pride Elementary School, argued that instead of focusing on in-person instruction, school districts should provide students with sufficient technological resources to be successful with at-home learning.

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East Bay teachers and parents met Wednesday afternoon to speak out against the Biden administration’s plans to reopen the majority of schools within its first 100 days of office.

During the virtual press conference, teachers and parents expressed their opposition to in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. They discussed remote learning, the safety of students and educators and the impact of the pandemic on students of color in the East Bay.

Leul Afework, parent of two Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, students, noted that when schools physically closed down last spring, COVID-19 was less prevalent than it is now.

“In my house, there is a grandmother who is close to 100. If these two kids bring in something, we’re gonna lose her,” Afework said during the press conference. “Are we getting used to the death? Are we better off now than we were last year?”

Afework added that school districts should follow preventative measures rather than opening for in-person learning.

East Oakland Pride Elementary School teacher Adarene Hoag touched on the implications of the pandemic and its effects on marginalized students within her community.

“Most students live in multigenerational households, depend on grandparents and have multiple people working with the public in jobs where they are put at risk,” Hoag said during the press conference. “That’s why there’s been so much infection and death. It’s really sickening to me to hear people say they want to further endanger my students and their families.”

Hoag suggested that instead of focusing on reopening schools prematurely, school districts should ensure each student is provided with the necessary technology and internet connection to properly participate in remote education.

Adding to the opposition against in-person instruction, Oakland Technical High School teacher Tania Kappner cited poorly ventilated classrooms with “windows that open an inch” and the difficulty of requiring elementary school students to have their masks on at all times.

Press conference organizer Yvette Felarca, who is a BUSD teacher and Equal Opportunity Now / By Any Means Necessary Caucus activist, alleged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Biden administration are pushing “pseudoscientific studies” to reopen schools.

With the emergence of coronavirus variants, Felarca said schools must remain closed to keep educators, students, parents and school support staff safe.

“We’re looking at death and loss on a global scale and the trauma that comes with it,” Felarca said during the press conference. “Opening school will compound the crisis and the problem.”

Anishi Patel is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anishipatel.