Roots International Academy set to close



By Xavier Clark, CONTRIBUTOR

Roots International Academy is the first of 24 Oakland Unified Schools slated for closure, possibly by the end of this school year.
With the 5-2 Oakland School Board vote, the “Community of Schools Policy” will now put many teachers and administration out of a job and leave students in Oakland displaced.
The Go Public Schools Oakland website issued a statement on June 28, 2018, citing that the Community of Schools Policy was enacted to eliminate “underutilized and vacant school facilities that are draining resources from children.”
The policy was passed by the Oakland School Board in November 2018, but Quinn Ranahan, a teacher at Roots, says that members of the community had no input in the decision. Ranahan said in an interview that there was little effort made to involve the community in the meeting that decided the Roots closure.
“Our families got a robocall from our site inviting them to a community meeting that they were given little time to prepare for,” she said. “For this reason, many families failed to show up to the meeting and express their discontent with the decision.”
Declining enrollment rates and poor test scores are only two of the many factors that have contributed to the decisions to close Oakland schools.
Geoff Vu, the principal of Roots International Academy, said the decision to close schools was related to the impact of gentrification and the rise of the charter schools. Currently, there are 45 charter institutions in Oakland that are siphoning students out of Oakland Unified schools.
Charter and traditional district schools in California receive funding through the Local Control Funding Formula (LFCC). This formula allocates state and local tax dollars to schools based on the number of students they have filling their classrooms.
This gives charters extra incentive to be in support of the “Community of Schools Policy” which allows them the opportunity to reign in more revenue.
Vu said charter schools have been springing up in the neighborhood around Roots since he started in 2015.
“In the time that I started here, there’s been a charter school that opened down the street and another one right next door,” he said in an interview. “I know from a handful of families that when their kids left Roots and got into a high school charter then a lot of their younger siblings would follow. These typically would have been students coming to Roots.”
Vu also says enrollment rates have been declining at Roots since he started.
“I’ve personally witnessed a significant impact to enrollment, when I started here there was about 400 students and now we’re down to 260,” he said.
Teachers and administration are putting their energy into worrying about what their students will be doing next. “My number-one concern is the displacement of students. There are not enough spaces at Coliseum College Prep Academy for enough Root students to go as of right now, so most of our students will be displaced to schools that are up to 30 blocks away,” said Ranahan.
Concern related to student transitions to new schools has become one of the primary issues for teachers and administrators at Roots.