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District Board Vote To Close Oakland School Sparks Outrage

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- A vocal group of students and teachers expressed their outrage Monday night as the Oakland school board voted to close the first of what could be as many as 24 schools in the district due to budget constraints.

All but one board member voted for the closure of Roots International Academy, despite the outcry to keep the school open.

Many students were in tears after the vote to shut down the school. Adults and teens in attendance talked about how angry the vote made them.

"I'm really disappointed that they made the community -- this is the third meeting we've come to -- they made us sit here for hours and hours knowing that that's what they were going to vote anyway," said Mike Hutchinson with the group Open Oakland Public Education.

"Unfortunately, given the funding that we have from the state of California, we cannot fully resource all 87 schools in the way that we want to," said Oakland School Board President Aimee Sueko. "So until we get more funding, we are in this untenable situation."

For the second time in four days, students and teachers packed an Oakland Unified School District board meeting, demanding that board members halt a plan to close a number of schools.

"We are Oakland! Keep our schools open!" the gathered crowd chanted at one point.

The vocal protest forced the board meeting into an early recess.

The chants were part of a chorus of young voices hoping to persuade the board to keep their East Oakland middle school -- Roots International Academy -- from being shut down.

"Roots gave me hope when there was none at all," said Roots International Academy student Octavio Mendoza.

"What you guys are doing is not right. Some of us want to go here and have an education," said another student. "None of us should be fighting for our education."

Roots would be the first of two dozen schools set to shut down under a plan to close Oakland Unified School District's $30 million budget gap.

"By making difficult and painful decisions now, we will create the right conditions for a high-quality school system," said OUSD Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammel.

"Roots has not lived up to what we want it to make sure they get a better education," said district spokesman John Sasaki. "That's what this is all about."

But educators blamed the district for any of the school's shortcomings.

"You may claim that Roots is not a quality school, but that's because you and your predecessors have made it that way," said one teacher during the meeting.

The teachers union tried to intervene, arguing the district should've brought the plan for school closures to the bargaining table, but to no avail.

The president of the Oakland teacher's union said the organization could take legal action against the district, claiming labor violations after Monday night's vote.

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