Controversy over school closures and mergers in Oakland

Lyanne Melendez Image
Saturday, September 28, 2019
Controversy over school closures in the East Bay
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Parents and students of the Oakland Unified School District are not happy with the school closures in the city.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Parents of one Oakland school are still trying to keep their kids' school from closing even though those on the board decided it can no longer afford to keep Kaiser Elementary open.

Kaiser will now merge with another school and parents don't like that.

On Friday morning, parents of Kaiser Elementary and other Oakland schools targeted the district in an attempt to stop school closures.

"The displacement that happens with the school closures is terrible and what happens with our students is traumatizing to them and stays with them," expressed Cherisse Gash, a parent who came to protest on Friday.

Last Wednesday, parents interrupted the school board meeting even though the board had previously voted to close Kaiser which will now merge with Sankofa Elementary several miles away.

RELATED: School district votes to close Roots International Academy in Oakland

Oakland School of Language Middle School will also close and merge with Frick Academy.

In a statement, Oakland Unified reiterated its position stating that "The District recommended this move to the Board in the interest of the long-term health and viability of the District and our ability to consolidate resources at fewer schools."

What has surprised and upset board members the most is a letter sent by Kaiser teachers and obtained by ABC7 news basically stating that they are unwilling to work anywhere else but Kaiser.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Oakland Catholic Diocese closes 5 affordable schools

Teachers wrote, "We will not participate in any planning process or transition team around the move, even if the School Board were to approve the Cohort II Plan."

The letter has drawn criticism because Kaiser is located in the Oakland Hills which has a higher income bracket, and Sankofa Elementary is in the flatlands. The teachers' union accused the district of trying to divide and conquer.

"There's this perception that Kaiser only cares about Kaiser, but that's not the case and they are actually out, reaching out and engaging with community members at Sankofa as well," explained Chaz Garcia, of the Oakland Education Association. "So, it's not about not going to Sankofa, it's about doing what's right for kids all over the district."

The teachers union blames the district for allowing public charter schools to draw dollars from the traditional public schools.