On Tuesday night, hundreds of parents, teachers and students crowded an Oakland School Board meeting to protest proposed shutdowns and consolidations that would affect 13 Oakland elementary schools. According to Oakland North, the closures will force 959 students to relocate.
The plan would close five small elementary schools (Lakeview, Lazaer, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe schools), and consolidate eight others, and would save the district about $2 million.
According to SFGate, the five elementary schools are too small to qualify for crucial state funding, leaving the district to pick up the cost. The state distributes funding per student, so smaller schools end up with dramatically less money. To make matters worse, the schools are underperforming.
"The real reason for this is we have too many schools for the number of children we have," said Superintendent Tony Smith to ABC7. "If we were outperforming in those districts, that would be one thing." But 17 percent of students are not passing the high school exit exam. "That's not OK," said Smith at the meeting. "We are stretched way too thin and we gotta figure out how to better use our resources."
But many parents point to the high number of also underperforming charter schools in the district that have drained students from public schools for the lack of funding. "There are 35 charter schools in Oakland," said one parent. "That's why our public schools are underenrolled."
At the meeting, parents complained that closures would break up school communities and force Oakland families to travel too far from home to get their children to school. Several parents even threatened to remove their children from the district -- a nightmare for the Oakland Unified School District, since state funding is based on attendance.
A final decision will be made by the School Board on October 26.
Check out the video below courtesy of ABC7 for coverage from the scene: