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Parents and Students March to Protest Oakland School Closures

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- Parents and community members opposed to a number of school closures announced by Oakland Unified School District rallied on Saturday in front of La Escuelita School before marching to City Hall to keep pressure on school board members to reverse their decision.

"My children would potentially have to walk through a very, very dangerous area to get to a farther-away school. It would mean that the community we've built over the years would be torn apart," said Azlinah Tambu, a parent who has two students in fifth grade and one in first grade.

Oakland Unified School District District leaders have said they face a structural deficit approaching $40 million. They also argue OUSD has too many schools since losing 15,000 students over two decades. The district has about 80 schools and 33,000 students compared to other Northern California communities with roughly the same number of students with around half as many schools.

"All their numbers they're giving us at every meeting it changes so we do want true numbers, we do want an investigation into where our money is going," said Max Orozco, another parent at the rally.

The school board voted in February to proceed with the closure of three schools at the end of the academic year, including the middle school at La Escuelita as well as Parker K-8 and Community Day School. Organizers hope that, by protesting week after week, they can change the minds of board members.

"Keep rallying, keep fighting and keep pushing back until they understand you don't get to uproot our children!" said Rochelle Jenkins, an OUSD parent. "I just hope that they really take into consideration what they're doing to our children and our communities."

Parents said smaller enrollment is not a reason to take away an important education resource for their families. They also suggest closing campuses may be an excuse to bring in charter schools.

"We deserve to have that type of private school feel and private-school-type education in a public school for our children in deep east Oakland," Tambu told KPIX referring to the current smaller student totals. "So they're going to close our school, displace our children and have it replaced by a charter school that caters to the people who are gentrifying that area."

OUSD has yet to respond to a request by KPIX for comment about Saturday's rally on Saturday.

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