OAKLAND (KPIX) — A planned sickout by teachers in Oakland led to the East Bay district shutting down a dozen schools on Friday, according to Oakland Unified officials.

An OUSD spokesperson said 503 teachers called in sick Friday morning, a rate about 2.5 times higher than a normal day. The absences led to the closure of 12 schools. Nine high schools, two middle schools and one elementary school were “non operational” because of the lack of staff.

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Officials later clarified that the closed schools were Garfield Elementary School, West Oakland Middle School, United for Success Academy, Madison Park Academy Secondary, Coliseum College Prep Academy, Life Academy, Fremont High School, Oakland Technical High School, Skyline High School, MetWest, Oakland International High School, and Ralph J. Bunche High School.

Educators with signs posted on their cars drove past Oakland Unified headquarters Friday morning, protesting in a car caravan as part of the sick out.

“I am boosted. I’m not worried about myself. I’m worried about my two-year old son,” said Garfield Elementary teacher Tamara Henry.

“I agree that the best learning happens in school. But I don’t feel safe at work right now,” said Carrie Landheer, another Garfield teacher.

Teachers told KPIX many of their colleagues and students are infected with COVID. They don’t believe the district is doing enough to protect them from the omicron variant.

“It’s so painful and it seems like nobody cares. It’s kind of like we’re being thrown away out to the wolves to fend for ourselves,” said Jaelynn Wilson, a librarian at Coliseum College Prep Academy.

“This is super frustrating that it has to come to this. Obviously we all have great lesson plans in place for school. And we want to be there. We love our kids,” said Kiana Pineda, another teacher at Garfield Elementary.

The district warned parents Thursday that some teachers might stage what they described as an “illegal sickout” as school districts across the Bay Area face staffing shortages during the COVID-19 omicron surge.

“We need to be clear: this action – at whichever schools it occurs – is likely to significantly disrupt basic operation and instruction and will negatively impact the safety of students,” according to a district’s Thursday statement.

The district sent home rapid tests before winter break. More than 900 students and staff tested positive for COVID.

The district has information on its COVID-19 protocols posted on the OUSD website.

Educators are asking the district to implement a series of safety measures.

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Among the demands are providing KN95 masks for all staff and students, weekly PCR testing for all students and staff and two weeks of remote learning to allow time for the implementation of these measures.

“We are hoping our demands are met as soon as possible so that we can be back in school with our students,” said Garfield Elementary teacher Natalie Canellas.

Oakland Unified Director of Communications John Sasaki said KN95 masks for staff were delivered Thursday night, and masks for kids were on their way.

When asked if he knew when the masks for students would arrive, he replied, “When they get here.”

As far as the two weeks of virtual learning educators are calling for, Sasaki said the district is not planning on any broad closure of schools.

“We’re not planning on shutting schools,” Sasaki said. “Bottom line, is this is not making things safe for our students.”

District officials felt the sickout was unnecessary and disruptive for families.

“When you do this, you create problems for our families and you potentially create more dangerous circumstances for our kids,” said Sasaki.

Teachers additionally called for an extension of COVID sick leave and the installation of HEPA filters in cafeterias and other large spaces. The teachers also want the changes to have no impact on school budgets.

On Thursday night, the district and the teachers’ union came to a tentative agreement on a COVID leave policy.

The school district has 80 schools. About 8,400 students were affected by the sickout.

District officials said they believe the sickout was a one-day protest and things will be back to normal Monday.

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Da Lin contributed to this story.