Parents, educators protest 5 Oakland school closures


Parents marched down Broadway from Mosswood Park to the school board meeting at Oakland Tech. It is about a half-a-mile march.

At the 11th hour, there was still hope Oakland's School Board would keep five elementary schools open. The school district says Oakland has a problem -- it has too many schools. They have about 100 serving just 38,000 students, which is twice the average for a school district that size. By closing five schools, the district would save about $2 million a year.

"We really have to get in alignment and when we scale back to a manageable number of schools, we'll be able to invest that much more heavily in the remaining schools so that we could have richer programs at these sites," said Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint.

The five schools are: Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Santa Fe and Maxwell Park. All of them serve children living in communities of color.

Guadalupe Reyes has four grandchildren at Lazear. She's responsible for picking and dropping them off. Now they'll probably have to attend another school that won't be as close to where she lives. She says I don't drive, I don't have a car.

The teacher's union says it's never been on board with closing these schools, even though teachers will be transferred to other locations.

"We will work very closely with them to make sure they are matched with a school where they feel comfortable and they have seniority rights," said Betty Olson Jones with the Oakland Education Association.

Oakland faces yet another problem which will be addressed at Wednesday night's meeting. Two other schools, Ascend and Learning Without Limits, will ask to break away from the district. Their plan is to convert to independent charter schools. Without those two schools, Oakland Unified stands to lose $4 million.

"I would say there is still room for hope, but not room for optimism," said Flint.

To explain this further, the $4 million is money the Oakland district would not get if the two schools convert to an independent charter school because the students would simply go away. The kids wouldn't be a part of the Oakland Unified School District and the district would not get that money from the state.

Whereas in the other five schools slated to close, the children are not leaving the district, they are simply being transferred to other schools within the district. Therefore the district would still be getting that money from the state. The $2 million that the district would be saving would come from maintenance costs involved in running a school.

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