SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The omicron surge is disrupting classrooms across the region with teachers and students calling out in droves. Many are either sick or quarantined due to exposure to coronavirus and that is leaving some to question what needs to happen next to keep schools safe.
Last week, 29 students and two staff tested positive for coronavirus at River City High School. Those numbers were considered very low compared to other schools across the region as omicron surges, but schools widely remain open as some call for a pause due to the latest COVID concerns.
These disruptions are straining Northern California schools as students and staff across the region call out in unprecedented numbers, some either sick or exposed.
This includes more than 3,650 people at Sacramento City Unified School District since returning from winter break. Administrators have tried to fill the void since the district can’t find enough substitutes.
“We have high schools that have hundreds of students in the cafeteria because teachers aren’t able to come in because they are sick or quarantined," said David Fisher, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. "We have elementary schools that have multiple classrooms in one classroom because substitutes are not being filled.”
Sheldon High School sophomore Nicolas Gaerlan wants to go back to virtual learning until cases drop.
“I care more about the health and safety of the community,” Gaerlan said.
He’s started a Change.org petition urging Elk Grove schools to take a pause. However, not everyone is on board with that approach.
Some parents worry it will take too long to switch back.
"There is this overriding concern about switching to remote learning,” said John Meyers with Open Sac City Schools.
Meanwhile, many school leaders say they’re doing everything they can to keep doors open.
San Juan Unified School District Superintendent Kent Kern warned parents that individual classes or schools could be forced to close.
It proved to be unavoidable at Butte Vista Elementary in Yuba City on Friday after they were overrun with cases.
As a parent to an at-risk son with special needs in Elk Grove, David Phommavong’s says his 8-year-old is still distance learning and is falling behind.
He’d been hoping his son could return to in-person classes but says it’s still not safe.
“You know give them a different option,” Phommavong said.
He’s hoping schools will be flexible and possibly offer in-person and virtual options for teachers and students.