Fifth-grade realities

file photo by Karen T. Borchers/San Jose Mercury News

Once again, health professionals and researchers asked Oakland’s fifth-graders whether they felt safe at school, if they drank alcohol or used drugs, and whether they had caring relationships and other important things going for them at school and at home.

The findings of the 2008-09 California Healthy Kids Survey included the responses of 77 percent of the school district’s fifth-grade class. While the results haven’t changed much since 2006-07 — or maybe because they haven’t —  they are definitely worth noting.

Here’s what never ceases to alarm me, even though I’ve seen these stats before: About 5 percent of the children surveyed — mind you, they are 10 and 11, for the most part — said they had brought a gun or a knife to their elementary school in the past year. And that about 33 percent of the students, one in three kids, said they had seen a gun or knife at school in the past year.

Not surprisingly, just 46 percent said they felt safe at their school all of the time.

But it’s not just Oakland. Continue Reading


Middle school boys mobilize to keep their coach

Sports4Kids, the nonprofit that runs activities during recess and after school at more than 30 Oakland schools, has decided to pull out of middle schools and focus solely on elementary schools.

A group of eighth-graders at Ascend, a K-8 school in Fruitvale, were concerned about what this would mean for the younger students. They got together and wrote a petition to keep “Coach Josh” next year. One of those students, Jose Jauregui, wrote this piece about why they did it. -Katy

The new depression, it’s hard and confusing even for kids. Oakland, like most of California, is poor and losing money.

It’s understandable why Sports4Kids would have need to leave middle schools. Continue Reading


Swine Flu/Disease Project

Hey everyone!

I haven’t been posting anything lately because the school year is close to ending and everyone we’re trying to finish their end of the year projects and such.

The Swine Flu has been dominating the media for the past two-three weeks. Coincidentally, the 10th graders at our school are doing a project about different diseases. It’s actually amazing how our project fell into perfect synchronization with the outbreak of the swine flu.

One of the first things we learned was how to prevent the influenza from spreading. However, some students are reacting strongly about the swine while others aren’t worried at all. We’ve had students go home early on school days because their parents were afraid that they can catch the flu, we’ve had students wear masks to school, etc. If anyone shows a symptom of the flu last week, they were usually sent home and stayed home until the symptoms are gone regardless if they had the flu or not. Continue Reading


Oakland schools may have avoided flu vacation

Last week, as schools from San Francisco to New York were closing temporarily to avoid the spread of the H1N1 virus, I kept waiting for the swine scare to hit Oakland.

So far, it hasn’t happened. And today, the CDC says it’s no longer recommending school closures in response to the virus — just for schools and families to be vigilant about sending sick kids home. Continue Reading


The science of hand washing

I actually found a science experiment on the subject (in addition to numerous hand washing songs that, frankly, I wouldn’t recommend).

Has anyone used vegetable oil — or something called GloGerm — to show kids all the hot water, soap and scrubbing that it takes to free their hands of germs?

Sounds like a timely science lesson to me…

Here’s a story my colleague Kim Wetzel wrote on the flu virus and a document outlining the procedures schools should follow (from the California Department of Education). The state health department wants schools with even one case of it to close.

image from NickNguyen’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons


Swine flu reported in Southern Calif.

UPDATE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint confirmed late Friday afternoon that no cases had been reported to the school district.

Schools, libraries and museums in Mexico have closed because of an outbreak of swine flu that has killed dozens of people. So far six cases have been reported in California — mostly in the San Diego area. I haven’t heard of any in the Bay Area.

Associated Press photo, Mexico City

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of this virus before this outbreak, here are some facts about it from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It apparently spreads from human to human like the common flu — and, according to the CDC, you don’t catch it from eating pork.


A film about gender, featuring Oakland kids

The documentary film Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up features eight former Metwest High School students and other Bay Area youth. It’s being shown at film festivals around the country, but its East Bay premiere is at 7 p.m. Thursday evening at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave.

photos courtesy of GroundSpark

The hour-long documentary, which is part of an educational campaign about such issues as gender bias and health, delves into deeply ingrained gender expectations, and the lengths to which some will go to avoid being labeled as gay (and why). Continue Reading


A safety net, unraveling before our eyes

photo of a final communications class at Lifelong Medical Care’s adult day care center by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Today marks the end of hundreds of adult education programs for seniors and the disabled — in Oakland, alone. Across the state, classes that once provided a source of needed stimulation for the elderly are falling by the wayside. Continue Reading


A weight problem at age 4

Here is some news that might make you want to hold the birthday cake: Nearly one in five 4-year-old kids is obese, according to a public health study published in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The obesity rates reported in the study, based on height/weight ratios, are particularly high for Native American children (31 percent). I don’t believe the paper is posted online yet, but you can read a research brief here.

image from two stout monks’ photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons


On spring break, it’s business as usual for OUSD board

This Wednesday may fall right in the middle of spring break, and on the first night of Passover, but the Oakland school board plans to meet anyway.

A couple of major issues appear on this week’s agenda, including details of dramatic adult school cutbacks and the closure of some of the school district’s preschool classrooms and programs.

Given the timing of the meeting, I wonder how many people will be there make it. You can find the full agenda here, the adult school presentation Continue Reading