Oakland Unified School District Board votes to close or merge nearly a dozen schools

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Unified School District school board narrowly approved a move to close or merge nearly a dozen schools in a contentious meeting that began Tuesday night and dragged on until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

The measure is an effort to tackle an expected budget shortfall and has prompted protests from students, teachers and parents, including a hunger strike by two teachers.

The virtual meeting drew hundreds of callers, all of whom opposed the district’s plan during a public comment session. Despite public opposition, council approved an amended version shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday.

RELATED: Parents Pull Children Out of Oakland Unified Schools Due to Closures, Consolidation Plan

The approved measure will result in the closure of two schools at the end of the current school year: Community Day School and Parker Elementary School. Five other schools will close at the end of the next school year in 2023: Brookfield Elementary, Carl B. Munck Elementary, Grass Valley Elementary, Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy and Horace Mann Elementary.

Additionally, the approved measure merges RISE Elementary with New Highland Academy Elementary for the start of the 2022-23 school year. Beginning in the same school year, La Escuelita Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary will eliminate students in grades 6 through 8.

According to the district, mergers or school closures are needed due to declining enrollment, especially in its elementary schools. Since public schools are funded based on enrollment, this resulted in a deficit over the next two years. The district says 35% of its schools are listed at “below-bearable” levels.

According to the district, the drop in enrollment is caused by factors such as declining birth rates, pandemic-related moves out of the district and a lack of affordable housing.

Demographics show that 36% of the population on average in these 16 schools is black, while 42% is Hispanic. Less than 10% on average are Asian and less than 10% are white.

RELATED: Hunger Strike Continues in Fight Against Oakland School Closures

Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown said that when schools serving primarily black students are closed and reopened as charter or new schools in the district, the reopened schools serve fewer black students.

He added that the school district‘s focus during this pandemic should be the health and safety of people in the school community rather than school closures.

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