By Katie Nielsen

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — With a mixture of excitement and a little anxiety, Oakland teachers were busy getting their classrooms ready Friday as the district’s more than 36,000 students were preparing for a return to fall classes next week.

This year in addition to markers and colored pencils, there were masks and gloves — a sign of the times.

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“We wear the mask to protect everyone, including yourself, and to stay in school because that’s where we want to be,” high school teacher Sam Weiss said.

“Right now I feel prepared, with what I have, and ready to keep them as safe as possible,” art teacher Catie Rice added.

District leaders told KPIX 5 they have a number of precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID in schools including requiring masks indoors, upgraded ventilation systems and rapid COVID testing available on campus.

On Friday, a pop-up COVID vaccine clinic for students was held at Oakland Tech High School. Over the weekend, the district will hold similar clinics at:

  • Urban Promise Academy – Saturday, 8/7, 9am – 12pm
  • Elmhurst United Middle School – Saturday, 8/7, 11am – 2pm

“We’re doing everything we can especially with guidance from the state and county to keep everyone safe,” said district spokesman John Sasaki.

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The district does not currently require teachers or staff to be vaccinated and at a press conference earlier Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he feels confident in the state’s current plans to reopen schools – without a vaccine mandate.

“We’ve done every single thing we can, and I know this is happening district wide to make sure students, staff, and families are safe,” said Madison Park Academy Principal Dr. Lucinda Taylor. “If you arrive here, you have to have a mask on. Before teachers come in, they have to do a safety check.”

While administrators finalize the last-minute details on COVID protocols, kids say they’re just ready to get back to class and see their friends again.

“Now we actually get to like eat lunch together again and hang out fully,” said Oakland Tech freshman Borten Apodaca. “I can’t wait to attend to get on the soccer team.”

“It feels kind of weird, but I feel like I’m going to get the hang of it in a couple weeks maybe, so I’m not really worried about it,” said 8th grader Seth Evans after more than a year of remote learning.

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Not all the district’s students will be returning to the classroom. About 900 have chosen to remain in a remote learning setting.