Families and Students Displaced following Several Oakland School Closures

Efren Bueno, Staff Writer

A shift that would displace hundreds of students and their families in the upcoming school year

OAKLAND, Calif. —Parents and students stood outside protesting to reinstate the Board of Alameda County of Educators’ decision to close and merge seven schools in The Oakland Unified School District on Feb. 21. 

Students and educators organized a walkout at Oakland Technical High School, and Moses Omolade and Mx. Andres San-Chez participated in a hunger strike lasting more than 20 days. 

Lauren Chow and her 10-year-old daughter are among the many families who are now displaced due to the district-wide closures. 

“While the closing and merging of schools will help with budgeting and lowering the alleged 100 million [dollar]debt, the Oakland Unified School District is not acting in the best interest for the students,” said Lauren Chow, whose daughter attends Brookfield Elementary. 

The closures are forcing students and their families to travel even further to their new schools, affecting carefully curated schedules for jam-packed families. 

“I already have to do quite a drive as it was hard picking the right school when she first started in kindergarten, and Brookfield was the choice I chose. But when we heard that the school was closing, I immediately thought about my schedule and how it won’t be easy because Stephanie is not the only child I have, I have one more in daycare, and I know the routine will be a change, but this is our only choice right now,” discussed Chow.

Altering environments can be daunting at any age, and children who will change schools will be forced to adjust to new teachers, classmates, and school. 

“There is no way that this is benefiting my daughter in any way. We have gone to this elementary school since she started back in kindergarten, so I know this will be a scary change for her,” explained Chow. 

While the decision to close schools affects the entire district, low-income students and students of color are disproportionately affected by the closures. 

“Two of the three schools being closed have more than 90% of the student body receiving free or reduced lunch as well as all three named schools for closure this year have at least 50% of the student body being Black while OUSD schools have roughly 20%, Black students, in total,” noted Isaac Coleman, the Political Editor for The Pioneer Online. 

A meeting on Feb. 9 that went on for nearly eight hours caused frustration among the community as Zoom forums didn’t allow for community engagement and the ability to address the board due to the newest zoom restrictions. 

After more than three hours of pleading from dozens of parents and more than 70 children, the OUSD voted 4-2-1 to close the seven schools in the next two years, the decision being a rushed process that was forced down the community’s throat.

“We need to take another year out to actually engage with the community and listen. We know there is no hurry. There is no timetable. The only [deadline] is for enrollment purposes to have to move to a different school. There is no penalty – we’re misleading the community,” said School Board Director VanCedric Williams.

Sudden changes to routine leave families scrambling to make new arrangements work.

“It is unfair to our kids,” explained Chow, adding, “this will not help them one bit, my daughter has spent all of her education here, and she’s so familiar with her friends and teachers that I know moving her will be something that will affect her.”

The community is adamant about finding another way to derail the direction, protect students’ peace, and fight to defend public education.