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West Contra Costa schools to reopem

WCCUSD teachers file complaint with state over COVID safety concerns

on September 24, 2021

Frustrated with the lack of protocols to protect staff and students from COVID-19, West Contra Costa Unified teachers have filed a state workplace complaint against the school district. 

The complaint was filed on Aug. 31 with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The teachers favor a vaccine mandate for kids ages 12 and up, which the school board was expected to discuss this week but postponed. Superintendent Chris Hurst said in an internal email that more research was needed before the board could take up the issue.

The union says teachers have aired their concerns for weeks, but their complaints had been largely ignored by the district.  

“We’ve sent our issues to the board and to the district daily,” said Marissa Glidden, president of United Teachers of Richmond. “We email them with issues at sites and we get basically no response, which is why we filed a formal OSHA complaint.”

In the internal email, Hurst said the district first needed to find out how a mandate was handled by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is among the few to require vaccines for students. The Oakland Unified School District voted this week for a mandate, but put off strict enforcement of it until January. 

In his email, Hurst also said WCCUSD needs to figure out how to handle in-person learning for students who don’t want the vaccine and how to secure vaccine data for all students. In a Sept. 16 email to the entire school community, he noted that there would be no special meeting on Sept. 21 to discuss a mandate. 

Teachers were hopeful the district would take a stand and were disappointed that Hurst delayed the discussion, Glidden said. 

As in-person classes return around the country, school boards are faced with the difficult decision of how to handle COVID-19 among children. In Contra Costa County, the 5-to12-year-old age group has the highest number of coronavirus cases. Since school started on Aug. 16, WCCUSD has reported 188 student cases and 37 staff cases and has closed 26 classrooms.  

WCCUSD parents are split on the mandate question, as Richmond Confidential found when talking to many before the postponed board discussion. And some are adamantly opposed to having their children vaccinated, citing concerns about the vaccine’s safety and parental rights. 

On the other hand, a union poll found that 90% of WCCUSD teachers support a mandate, Glidden said. And at Wednesday’s board meeting, several teachers expressed disappointment that it wasn’t discussed. 

“Students are missing class because of outbreaks at schools and are not getting the full public education that they have a right to,” said Caroline Brickell, a seventh grade teacher at El Sobrante’s Betty Reid Soskin Middle School. “Full classes are being shut down… students are forced to stay home for 10 days. This could be potentially avoided if everybody was vaccinated.” 

Board President Mister Phillips said the mandate discussion was never on the board’s agenda. 

“The truth is that 9/21 was an internal ‘hold’ date that someone leaked to the news media,” Phillips said. “Now they are leaking the superintendent’s internal emails too. That is inappropriate.”

Other school board members said the possibility of a vaccine mandate isn’t dead.

Board member Leslie Reckler said she asked Hurst to present more research and to work with lawyers to develop a proposal.  

“I asked him to be very thoughtful and thorough and to consider the whole landscape, and so I believe that’s what he’s doing,” Reckler said. 

Hurst has not said when a possible vaccine mandate will come to the board for a vote. His office said in a statement that the superintendent is “only investigating the vaccine mandate.”  

1 Comment

  1. dipshierus on September 25, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Vaccinated people can still get covid, therefore it is illogical to assume just because someone is vaccinated, they can’t spread or get covid. Thus it’s equally illogical to mandate forced vaccines and punish people for not getting the vaccine since people who are vaccinated can still get and spread covid. The reasonable, rational alternative for everyone, including vaccinated people, is continue to wear a mask while teaching. Wash your hands frequently. And did you all forget that many special education students can’t wear masks? They eat them. They can choke on them. Or they rip them up. Worse, if they autism or other developmental issues, the mask can trigger self injurious behaviors. This isn’t a one size fits all. Be reasonable. Teachers who won’t work with special ed students because they can’t wear a mask or get vaccinated should find another profession. Nobody that ignorant should be anywhere near a student with special needs. One teacher was so obtuse she failed to realize you can’t force a special needs student to apply sanitizer, since that student frequently places hands in mouth. Get it? Yeah, that would be abusive, right? Righto. So long as teachers are willing to wear a mask and adhere to infection control in the classroom, there should be NO PUNISHMENT for not being vaccinated. Wearing a mask and adhering to infection control measures is a reasonable and rational alternative to being forced to place a vaccine in your body that may harm you. Respect choices and be reasonable. I understand if you have some goofball who refuses a vaccine and at the same time refuses to wear a mask, but most teachers are reasonable and want to keep their students safe, so let the unvaccinated teachers wear the mask and practice infection control. Problem solved.

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