OUSD board votes to keep 5 schools open, rescinding previous plan for closures

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Friday, January 13, 2023
OUSD board votes to rescind plans for 5 school closures
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On Wednesday, the newly elected Oakland Unified School Board voted to rescind the planned closure of five schools.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- On Wednesday, the newly elected Oakland Unified School Board voted to rescind the planned closure of five schools. This comes after the district's financial shortfall initially prompted the district to begin closing and merging schools in early 2022.

The school board's vote to rescind school closures in Oakland was based on a statement in the resolution stating that read: "OUSD is not in financial crisis -- there is a healthy fund balance and the District is projecting budget surpluses on all years of the multiyear plan."

There is some truth to that. Oakland Unified has one-time monies from the state and could cover the cost of keeping those schools open. But the funds are expected to eventually run out.

In May 2022, ABC7 interviewed former board member Shanthi Gonzales.

RELATED: OUSD votes to move forward with plans to close schools despite heavy pushback

"The County Office of Education has been quite, and the state have been quite clear that we cannot continue to use one-time funds to pay for ongoing operating expenses of the district," Gonzales said.

On the other hand, Oakland Unified is expected to finally pay off the $60 million loan received 20 years ago by the state and that puts them in a better financial position.

But in order to get out of receivership, not only do they have to pay off that debt, but they have to demonstrate that they are being fiscally responsible.

Mike Hutchinson presented the resolution.

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"We had already budgeted money for what we were calling 'welcoming schools' that would absorb student from the closed schools. Within the resolution that we past yesterday, it gives us the option to reallocate that money to offset any added costs that rescinding the closures might bring," Hutchinson said.

Oakland will have to rely on enrollment, which continues to decline.

In her report, the Superintendent projects that next year, 2023-2024, Oakland Unified will see 458 fewer students. Without students, the district gets less money from the state.

"The way we increase enrollment and increase attendance is by supporting our neighborhood schools and making them the best schools that we can," Hutchinson said.

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

But when it came to last night's vote, you can say that the board put "the cart before the horse" -- voting without ever seeing a fiscal impact analysis, which is always required before a vote of this nature.

Here's the explanation: "It is not possible to finalize the analysis on such short notice (less than a day) and so staff will publish its analysis on Jan. 25, 2023."

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