*This statement was created by two SFUSD educators - one SFMORE member - for the petition that has led to the sickout on 1/6/2022. SFMORE endorses the sickout and the language it uses and so is reproducing it here on our blog.
The new Omicron surge is resulting in a staggering spike of new cases. All across the City, restaurants, venues, offices, and even some private schools are shutting down or halting reopening. And yet, in SFUSD, there have been no calls to halt or even slow our return to schools as Omicron continues to surge unabated. Two years of a small but loud minority of parents, politicians, and reporters demanding we open in unsafe conditions has left many of us reluctant to stand up for our collective safety. The Biden admin has shifted responsibility to the states. The CDC lowered the isolation period from 10 to 5 days, making it clear they put profits before people. Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations nationwide have exceeded September 2021 levels. New cases are higher than ever. And child hospitalizations are on the rise. So much for the myth of the “milder variant!” Once again we are in the realm of “acceptable losses.”
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.
The current testing system, as laid out in the MOU, is insufficient, even if it were compulsory. In reality, most school workers are not even getting tested weekly. It’s an opt-in system, and the testing windows are often brief and inconvenient for overworked school employees. Omicron breaks through vaccines and boosters and has a short incubation period. We need regular mandatory testing for all employees and students to ensure that major outbreaks do not occur, especially BEFORE we return to sites. Everyone in schools must be screened, and if “we can’t afford it,” we shouldn’t be opening at all: students who live in multigenerational households and workers with immunocompromised dependents risk bringing home a potentially deadly virus. Let’s not just ask for what we think they will give us: let’s ask for what we actually need. If that sounds like asking too much, then it’s because we’re used to making do with too little. For more on this, listen to this bilingual (Spanish and English) radio interview (episode"Los Homeless se Levantan) with two SF teachers, including petition co-author Rori A.
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.
We would like all of the remedies requested in the COVID Safety grievance, which are as follows:
The District will provide sufficient daily disposable KN95 or N95 masks for ALL staff who are part of the unions listed in the TA.
All staff will be reimbursed to all SFUSD staff who purchased N95 masks in Fall 2021
Access to free weekly testing for all staff and all students should be arranged, with free rapid testing available at ALL SFUSD sites and central offices.
Continuation of 10 day paid sick leave for staff due to COVID and COVID Vaccination related illness.
Eight specific supports and resources for school nurses
SFMORE is calling on all sickout participants and UESF members to attend our virtual organizing meeting on Wednesday, January 12th at 5pm in order to reflect on this action and coordinate stronger actions across our district in response to COVID safety and budget cuts. The zoom link is below, and, for security reasons, you will need to provide your name and school site to protect ourselves from District representatives.
Meeting ID: 599 976 2133