By Katie Nielsen

HAYWARD (CBS SF) — Amid protests from parents, teachers and students, the Hayward Unified School District Board late Wednesday decided to close two schools, citing budget constraints and declining enrollment.

The two elementary schools slated for closing at the end of the current school year are Bowman and Strobridge.

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Glassbrook Elementary and Ochoa Middle School were also being considered for closure at the end of the 2022/2023 school year, but the board decided to delay voting on closing those schools until committees could look at the best ways to transition students and if there were other options.

Dozens of teachers, parents and students rallied outside the Hayward Unified School District offices ahead of the board’s vote that came during a Zoom meeting.

“It’s terrible what they’re doing right now. They’re trying to close down her school as well as a number of others,” said Henry Castro, whose daughter is a 7th grader at Ochoa Middle School.

The district said it was facing a $14 million budget shortfall for next school year, plus $900 million in maintenance costs for older school buildings. The expenses come while the district said it was struggling with declining enrollment.

“We are funded according to how many students we have in our school district, and so with less funding, it makes less sense to be maintaining facilities we don’t need,” said Dionicia Ramos, spokesperson for Hayward Unified.

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The superintendent highlighted the numbers during Wednesday night’s board meeting, explaining the district was designed to serve 24,000 students, but projections show enrollment could drop to under 17,000 students over the next couple of years, which is a decrease of more than 30%.

Some teachers and students argued now wasn’t the time to make changes as they were still struggling after being out of the classrooms for so long.

“This isn’t the right time because we just came back from being sheltered in place. Students haven’t been in school for a year and a half,” said Kristine Tabaracci, who teaches second grade at Strobridge.

Maricella Castro, a 7th Grader at Ochoa Middle School, added her voice to the protest.

“We’re still in a pandemic and everything is still super hard, and now you want to just dump us somewhere else, and it’s really difficult and outrageous,” she said.

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The superintendent said none of the teachers or staff will be laid off. They’ll all be offered jobs at other schools within the district.