teacher in classroom with students
Credit: Oakland Unified School District

Oakland Unified School District began reopening classrooms for in-person instruction nearly a month ago, but about two-thirds of the district’s roughly 35,000 students are still learning remotely.

Overall, about 13,000 students in OUSD have returned to their classrooms since the district began welcoming students back in stages, beginning with the youngest kids, a few weeks ago, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said Wednesday. That includes just under half of the district’s nearly 20,000 elementary school students, or about 8,760 students, according to the superintendent’s presentation at Wednesday’s school board meeting. About 600 middle school students, and nearly 1,000 high school students are also learning in person, or about nine to 10% of those groups. Thirty percent, or 1,678, of OUSD’s special education students are back on campuses.

Students in kindergarten to third grade began returning to their classrooms on March 30, while third to sixth graders began school last week, on April 19. Older students in targeted groups, including English learners, homeless students, foster youth, students who have less than 60% attendance, and those with unstable internet access at home, are also able to learn from school buildings now.  

Across the district, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, one way that schools measure poverty, have returned at lower rates than students who do not. About 25% of students who qualify are learning in person, while about 40% of students who do not qualify for the lunch program are back on their school campuses. Overall, about 72% of OUSD students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Of the district’s roughly 3,000 newcomer students, or students who have been in the United States for fewer than three years, about 32%, or 963, are attending classes in person.  

Last week, the first week of expanded in-person learning, the district reported three COVID-19 cases in students: one at Acorn Woodland Elementary, one at Chabot Elementary, and one case at MetWest High School. One class cohort at Acorn Woodland Elementary is in quarantine, according to the district’s COVID-19 case dashboard.

Prior to last week, there had been 10 cases since the start of the school year: three in November at Burbank Early Childhood Education Center, Burckhalter Elementary, and Coliseum College Prep Academy, one in December at Burckhalter, four in January at Burbank, Burckhalter, Elmhurst United, and United For Success Academy, and two in March at Madison Park Academy and Manzanita SEED.

The district is planning to resume in-person instruction full time in the fall, but will also offer families a distance learning option. For those who choose the remote option, they may have to unenroll from their current school, and may not be guaranteed a spot at their previous school if they opt back into in-person instruction. The first day of the 2021-2022 school year is Aug. 9.

Ashley McBride reports on education equity for The Oaklandside. She covered the 2019 Oakland Unified School District teachers’ strike as a breaking news reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. More recently, she was an education reporter for the San Antonio Express-News where she covered several local school districts, charter schools, and the community college system. McBride earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, has held positions at the Palm Beach Post and the Poynter Institute, and is a recent Hearst Journalism Fellow.