Oakland Unified students, teachers on hunger strike to fight school closures ahead of vote

"Tired, a little shaky in my body but my spirits are really high"

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Hunger strike continues in fight against Oakland school closures
Day 8 of a hunger strike continues as Oakland Unified School Board is slated to take a vote Tuesday on a controversial proposal to close 16 schools.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Tuesday night is when the Oakland Unified School Board is slated to take a vote on a controversial proposal to close 16 schools.

Students and teachers still on a hunger strike are fighting back. Andre San-Chez is one of those on a hunger strike and when asked how he is feeling on day eight, he said, "tired, a little shaky in my body but my spirits are really high."

RELATED: Parents pull kids out Oakland Unified schools over closures and consolidation plan

Also on a strike is teacher Moses Omalade who spoke at a press conference on Zoom from the hospital. He was admitted Tuesday morning based on abnormal lab test results. He said students from Westlake Middle School inspired him as they walked out of class to protest the closure and consolidation plans for 16 Oakland schools.

The hunger-striking educators vowed to continue their strike unless a list of six demands is met.

"Our first demand at the state level, we want a meeting with Governor Gavin Newsom in Oakland," San-Chez said.

The district launched plans last week to shutter campuses because of unpaid state loans and dropping enrollment. There are 15,000 fewer students in Oakland unified than there were 20 years ago. The school board is facing a decision to close school sites some say or face fiscal madness and state intervention.

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Timothy Killings is on the hunger strike support team.

"This week we had a lot of actions. We hope they are listening. 10 days is not enough to talk about environmental impact let alone a racial analysis," he said.

Opponents to the closures hope the board will delay voting based on on equity and the environment. One board member now has floated a plan to remove seven schools from the closure list.

RELATED: Preliminary list of Oakland school closures released without consent of OUSD

"They are going to vote some schools to try and divide us," San-Chez predicted.

The school board President laid it out last week with Gary Yee saying the goal is to "Consolidate programs so we have enough students at a school to provide the resources we know our kids need." Yee said the vote will be consequential for the districts long-term fiscal viability. The virtual meeting is expected to be emotional with more public comment.