Community members stage takeover of shuttered elementary school in Oakland, hoping to save it

As Parker among others are slated to close due to OUSD's budget deficit, many say it's not what the underserved community needs

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Monday, May 30, 2022
Community members stage takeover of shuttered Oakland school
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Parents and neighbors are camping out Parker Elementary in East Oakland in hopes of getting the school to reverse its decision to shut down.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay elementary school slated for closure, is now the scene of a sit-in protest on this holiday weekend. Parents and neighbors are camping out Parker Elementary in East Oakland in hopes of getting the school to reverse its decision.

"Education is unequal, it's unfair and unjust," said educator Paloma Collier.

Parker Elementary School in East Oakland, opened in the 1920s but had its final graduation last Wednesday. Some parents never went home.

"Me and a group of mothers and children and community members decided to not leave, to stay and occupy the school," said parent Azlinah Tambu.

Tambu says the sit-in protest involves pitching tents outside the grade school. Others are occupying classrooms inside, months after Oakland Unified officials decided to close this school and several others due to declining enrollment, as an effort to reduce the district's budget deficit. Activists say, it's not what this underserved community needs.

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"If you continue to take away and take away from Black and Brown communities, the racism is blatant and heartbreaking," Collier added.

"The school has some good teachers and they want to take that away from kids who really need this," said former Parker student Jayvien Bolden.

The group says its liberation of the school means a reopening and a new name, Parker Community School. They say classes, taught by community members start on Tuesday.

"We are offering chess class, we're offering a science class, mathematics, ESL," said Tambu.

But the sit-in is considered trespassing by the school district. Warnings have been posted on school doors.

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"They chained the back fences and tried lock us out of the cafeteria," said Tambu.

In a statement, OUSD says it recognizes some people are upset about the closure of Parker. "We would ask that they choose a different means of protest- one that doesn't disrupt the normal year end procedures of staff and the need to close out the year," said a district spokesperson.

Going forward, parents say tents aren't going anywhere and neither are they until their message is heard.

"We plan to be here until OUSD decides to reopen Parker or keeps it as a community center," said Tambu.