The Oakland Unified School District board has called a special meeting for Friday, Feb. 18 to discuss whether or not to delay a plan they approved just last week to close schools.
The emergency meeting comes after weeks of protests including a 17-day hunger strike by two Oakland educators. Since their Feb. 8 vote to close, merge, or shrink 11 schools over the next two years, board members have faced a fierce backlash from families, teachers, students, and community members who oppose the plan. City and state officials have also put forward legislation urging the state to step in and provide more funding to OUSD so that it doesn’t have to close schools.
District leaders who voted to close schools say the closures are necessary for the district’s long-term sustainability. OUSD has 80 schools for its 34,000 students, while other similarly sized districts in California have between 40 and 60 schools. Officials have said the schools to be closed or merged were chosen because of their low enrollments, which means that the schools may cost more to operate than the revenues they bring in per student.
At a Jan. 31 meeting, the board discussed an initial list of 15 schools to be relocated, merged, or closed by 2024. On Feb. 8, the board approved a modified plan that postponed most of the mergers and many of the closures until next year.
The current plan would close Community Day School and Parker K-8 this year, and shrink La Escuelita from a K-8 school to only an elementary school. Rise Community Elementary and New Highland Academy, which currently share the same campus in East Oakland, would be merged this year. Next year, Hillcrest K-8 would become an elementary school, and Brookfield Elementary, Carl B. Munck Elementary, Grass Valley Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, and Korematsu Discovery Academy would be closed.
Most of the schools set to be closed are predominantly Black and Latino, and critics have pointed to the disproportionate impact that closures would have on students of color. Opponents of the plan have been pushing district leaders to take a slower, more equitable approach to closing schools.
At the Feb. 8 meeting, directors Sam Davis, Aimee Eng, Gary Yee, and Shanthi Gonzales voted to implement the plan. Director Clifford Thompson abstained from voting, and directors VanCedric Williams and Mike Hutchinson voted no.