Rally held to keep Oakland schools open


"The school board shut down five schools and foreclosed on 1,000 of our children," said one speaker at the rally.

Hundreds gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza to demand change and then they marched.

Parents, teachers, students, and people who are simply concerned with the direction of education, united. They want the Oakland Unified School District to re-open five elementary schools the board voted to close.

The outrage has prompted a sit-in at Lakeview Elementary, where parents and children set up tents and have been camping out since last Friday. On Monday, police posted warning signs ordering occupiers to leave. The group refuses to budge.

"We want Tony Smith to reopen these schools or resign or the board needs to revote and be heroes, instead of standing in our way so we can improve public education," said Oakland parent Joel Velasquez.

"As for revisiting the school closure discussion, that's a decision the board would have to make, but I think it's extremely unlikely," said Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint.

The district insists right now there are way too many schools in a city of this size and student enrollment is dropping. Officials say consolidating will make the school system more efficient and it will save the district $5.7 million.

"Could we keep these schools open if we wanted to keep limping along the same way we have or only make small incremental changes? Probably, but that won't get the district to where we need to go," said Flint.

"They've set us up to fail," said Deirdre Snyder, a district teacher.

Many here say the district is making matters worse. They're sure the change in schools will cause confusion and only add to problems.

"Their attendance will go down because it's too far away, they're not connected to the school, they're not connected to teachers, they're going to get lost," said Snyder.

In the meantime several protestors have gotten into the school and are offering to teach free summer school classes to children who used to attend Lakeview Elementary School.

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