Lakeview teachers, parents and students invite supporters to join them, starting with a 2:00 pm rally on Saturday June 16th, and every evening from 5 to 9 pm in front of Lakeview for a vigil in protest of the school closure.
Lakeview Elementary School, 746 Grand Avenue, Oakland CA 94610
On Friday June 15th, at 4:00 p.m., parents, teachers and community members held a press conference announcing the beginning of a sit-in at Lakeview Elementary. The sit-in comes as a response to the Oakland School Board’s decision to close 5 Oakland schools including Lakeview, Santa Fe, Maxwell Park, Lazear, and Marshall Elementary. Friday afternoon, parents, teachers and community members held a barbecue at the school, knowing that if the District goes ahead with its plans, their children will not be able to return to the school next fall. Lakeview Elementary, located in the trendy Grand Lake commercial district, will be handed over to district administrators. Organizers outlined plans to remain in the school after the scheduled closing and operate a free, all-volunteer summer school and continue their protest against the District’s plans.
Joel Velasquez, a parent at Lakeview, added, “Closing elementary schools is traumatizing our kids. It is sending them the message that their education is not important.” Joel and other parents have expressed concerns that students will have to travel long distances to get to their new schools and are not being provided transportation by the district. Parents are also concerned about overcrowding at their students’ new schools.
The protestors say that school closures are part of a broader movement towards the privatization of public education in Oakland and furthermore, nationwide. Over the last decade, enrollment in Oakland public schools has declined from 54,000 students to 36,000. At the same time, enrollment in charter schools quadrupled, from 2,000 students in 2002 to more than 8,000. Oakland has the highest percentage of students in charter schools of any urban school district in California.
Overwhelmingly, the closures have targeted schools that serve students of color and low-income families. Civil rights advocates are filing a lawsuit against the closure of Santa Fe Elementary. Thearse Pecot, a grandmother and guardian of three Santa Fe students, said: “They are now trying to close the fifth school in my neighborhood – and all five of these schools have served mainly African-American children. This is racial discrimination, plain and simple.” Mrs. Chappell, a mother of two from Santa Fe, added, “The black and brown communities were the first ones to be losing their homes. We also are the ones more impacted by unemployment. And now, our children are the ones getting kicked out of their schools. The closing of these schools is a civil right issue.” Santa Fe Elementary has been leased to Emeryville School District. For these student they will no longer have a school in their neighborhood.
Velasquez commented further that: “We are not going to stand by while they rob our children of our community schools! We are fighting back.” He continued, “By sitting-in at Lakeview today, we are standing up to the corporate agenda of education cutbacks in Oakland. Today we say: ‘Public education must serve the needs of our children.’”
Educators also spoke at the rally. Bob Mandel is a former adult education teacher in Oakland, who was forced into retirement when the OUSD eliminated Adult Education. He insisted that there are alternatives to school closures: “Instead of closing these schools, the District should stop making payments to the State of California for millions of dollars in debt that was incurred under state control during the state takeover of Oakland schools from 2003-2009. These debt payments total $6 million a year, while the school closures will save only $2 million.”
Nick Palmquist, an educator in East Oakland, said, “In addition to closing the 5 schools, over the past year, the district has engaged in a series of teacher union busting tactics – going after Oakland’s strongest advocates against school closures and privatization. Just this week they announced they are slashing funding for special education across the district.” He continued, “These policies are impacting all of our schools—that’s why we all need to stand together. Education is a basic human right. There is money for new jail and prison beds. and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet the children of Oakland are losing their community schools? Enough is enough.”
The participants invite supporters to join them, starting with a 2:00 pm rally on Saturday June 16th, and every evening from 5 to 9 pm in front of Lakeview for a vigil in protest of the school closure.