Oakland parents upset over possible school closures
By Alan Wang
OAKLAND, Calif. — Tuesday night, hundreds of parents and teachers crowded an Oakland School Board meeting to fight a plan to close or consolidate 13 campuses at the end of the school year. Superintendant Tony Smith’s plan included closing: Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park, and Santa Fe elementary schools.
Smith says Oakland Unified has 101 schools, but it only needs about 70. Closing five schools and consolidating eight others could save millions of dollars.
“What does the district want for or kids? Are they going into 35 kid-classrooms now? Is that what’s happening?” asked Karen Harper, a Maxwell Park Elementary School parent.
Larger classes are on the way. Apparently the small schools philosophy isn’t working because Smith says 17 percent of students are not passing the high school exit exam. Nearly half are African American.
“And that’s not OK. So we’re stretched way too thin and we got to figure out how to better use our resources,” said Smith.
“There are 35 charter schools in Oakland. That’s why our public schools are under enrolled,” said Robin Ogden, a Lakeview Elementary School parent.
Some parents had concerns about integrating K through 12 into one school. Others said they don’t have cars to travel to the new schools of their choice and one parent tried to throw another school under the bus.
“According to documents on the OUSD restructuring website, Santa Fe is consistently rated higher than Sankofa in school choice. Santa Fe has a higher number of students who live in the surrounding area and go to its school,” said Peter Von Ehrenkrook, a Santa Fe Elementary School parent.
“I will either take her out of the district or home-school her until you guys can find a resolution,” said Ingrid McGraw, a Lake View Elementary School parent.
Oakland Unified does not want to lose students because school funding is based on average daily attendance. This is just the beginning of a three-year project that will see the eventual closure and consolidation of about 30 schools.
This was just the first reading of the recommendation. There will be two more meetings before a decision is made to close the schools next fall. It should happen at the end of October.