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Oakland School Board Approves Elementary School Closures

OAKLAND (CBS SF) - The Oakland school board approved a plan to close five elementary schools and consolidate several other closes during a raucous public meeting Wednesday night.

The school board voted 5 – 2 in favor of a plan proposed by Superintendent Tony Smith to close Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe in 2012. About 900 students attend those schools.

The $2.2 million from those closures will be redirected to other schools in the Oakland Unified School District.

"Having too many underfunded schools is not a good strategy,"  Smith said.

KCBS' Bob Butler Reports:

Smith pointed out Oakland has 100 schools serving about 38,000 students. The teachers unions has criticized the savings, saying it represents only a tiny portion of the district's $375 million general fund.

Some parents complained the impact would fall disproportionately on minority students. "I understand the need to save money and work on the budget," said parent Tamika Gross. "But I think the kids who are most affected by this are poor kids and students of color."

Emotions ran high as the school board debated whether to finalize Smith's plan. Many students, teachers and parents spoke against the changes at the board's lengthy meeting Wednesday night.

Two board members shouted at each other and some parents refused to cede microphone when the meeting at Oakland Technical High School was opened to public comment.

Betty Olson Jones, the president of the Oakland Education Association, the union that represents the district's teachers, said Thursday that the savings Smith hopes to achieve were minimal and represent only 0.5 percent of the district's $375 million general fund.

Olson Jones said the district might even lose money because many students who are attending the elementary schools might transfer to charter schools and the district could lose state funding, which is based on how many students the district has.

School board members Noel Gallo and Alice Spearman voted against the restructuring plan.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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