Six-year-old Felix Whitaker has a message for Gov. Gavin Newsom: “I miss my friends and my teacher.”
On Wednesday morning, the first grader crouched on the pavement outside Thousand Oaks Elementary School in Berkeley, pen in hand, slowly adding those words to a letter addressed to the governor.
He wasn't alone. Around him, more than 20 other students and parents drafted their own notes to Newsom, their school superintendent or to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who attended this school. Others held up signs that read, “I want to meet my teacher” and “School is the essential business of childhood.”
The sit-in is the latest action coordinated by Berkeley Unified School District parents mounting an increasingly organized pressure campaign that includes rallies, op-eds, a slick website and professionally printed #OpenSchools signs.
“We're out today because Jan. 13 is the day that Berkeley public schools were supposed to reopen,” said Berkeley Unified parent Jamila Dunn. “They did not, because they weren't prepared.” Dunn and others gathered for the protest want to see a return to in-person instruction as soon as public health officials give the green light. They hope the letters to elected officials help galvanize the support needed to make that possible.
But a holiday spike in COVID-19 cases and ongoing negotiations with employee unions mean there’s no reopening date in sight in Berkeley, or most other districts in Alameda County.