By Andrea Nakano

NEWARK (KPIX) – Parents and teachers are up in arms about the possibility of an elementary school closing in Newark. Parents gathered outside Graham Elementary School and lined the fence with messages to keep the school open.

The parents we heard from say they were blindsided and weren’t even given a chance to save their school.

“I didn’t even know they were considering Graham and that to me is part of the problem. I don’t see the transparency,” Anabel Zarate said.

Zarate has a 3rd grader at Graham Elementary. Zarate, her husband and her oldest son all graduated from this school and they’re ready to fight to keep it open.

“I think they thought Graham didn’t have a voice I think they thought we weren’t going to step up,” she says.

Husband Carlos Zarate adds, “It’s election season. It should be really fair, everybody should have a voice. No matter where you live.”

Principal Akilah Byrd from Graham led a Zoom session Monday night to inform and get feedback from the parent community about the possible closure for the next school year.

“I wanted to hear their concerns and share their concerns with the district leadership so they feel like their concerns are heard and valued,” said Principal Byrd.

While Byrd didn’t have any input on which schools should close, Rachel Bloom, a science teacher at Graham was on the closure committee. Graham was one of four schools she voted in favor of closing but now feels it’s a big mistake.

“We were getting the wrong information and we were using the wrong information,” says Bloom.

One of the factors against Graham was that it lacked diversity, with roughly 70% of the students being Hispanic.

“There’s inherent bias and systemic racism in education,” says Bloom. “We pulled something from the Department of Education and apparently I thought it wouldn’t be biased just like the whole system is.”

Parents are hoping the closure committee reconsiders its recommendation. They say Graham is the only school that can accommodate another elementary school on campus and it makes sense to keep the kids together.

“If Graham School closes, that means our students have to distribute into 3 different schools,” says Zarate. “You’re talking about a community that is already under privileged and disadvantaged. How is that being equitable?”

KPIX reached out to the Superintendent and the School Board member on the closure committee and we have not received a response as of Monday night. They are expected to hear this matter at a board meeting this Thursday and then take a vote on November 19.

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