OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Parents in Oakland are upset about the latest wave of school closures and mergers that are impacting thousands of students.
Next August, Henry J. Kaiser Elementary School in the Oakland Hills could be quiet and empty, with students and staff moving four miles down the road into Sankofa Academy on 61st Street.
Parents spoke out about the controversial proposal Wednesday evening as they and their children packed an Oakland Unified School District meeting, urging the board to reconsider.
“We have too many schools for not enough students. Last year, we had 11,000 empty seats,” OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki told KPIX 5.
Combining schools into one campus is not a first for OUSD and this would be round two of three.
In 2018, parents and students begged not to have Roots Academy folded into another school, but the school board ultimately voted to do just that.
“Once we have the right number of schools in the right configuration we can more easily concentrate resources in those schools to better serve our students,” Sasaki said.
Kaiser parents and students were clad in green Wednesday evening, all waiting for their turn to speak out against the proposed merger.
“Kaiser kids come from all over Oakland, not just a neighborhood school. Kaiser kids come from all over Oakland for the Kaiser experience….I would drive my kid an hour a day to go to that school,” said Stephen Young.
Once all three rounds of consolidations are done, the district is weighing what to do with the extra real estate. They’ve discussed leasing out the sites for money or even trying to alleviate Oakland’s housing crisis.
“There’s certainly been talk about creating housing for teachers, among others. The city certainly needs more affordable housing and our teachers are prime candidates for folks who need housing that they can afford,” Sasaki said.
One activist said the district’s painful cuts shouldn’t just fall on Oakland’s most vulnerable.
“If there are shifts that need to made and merges and consolidations that need to happen, then it cannot just be flatland communities that take the hit,” said LaKisha Young, executive director of The Oakland Reach.
Oakland parent Reginald Mosley said he believes the root of much of the opposition is racial–at Kaiser, one in four students is African American, compared to three in four at Sankofa.
Kaiser parents said their school is diverse and thriving, and they plan to keep it that way.
A final vote on the fate of Kaiser will come at the September 11 school board meeting.