Oakland school board to review school closures list, terms better defined

Renee Sanchez, PTA president of Kaiser Elementary School, began to cry after protesting with Kaiser families during an OUSD facilities board meeting last week.

Renee Sanchez, PTA president of Kaiser Elementary School, began to cry after protesting with Kaiser families during an OUSD facilities board meeting last week.

A list of schools recommended for closure by superintendent Tony Smith was released on the OUSD’s website through a PowerPoint presentation Saturday. The details are lengthy—nearly 40 pages—and complex.

A PowerPoint slide that will be presented to OUSD board members on Tuesday aims to illustrate school closure criteria.

The report lays out details that explain what “closure,” “grade configuration change,” and “quality expansion”—all terms that will be used extensively at Tuesday evening’s school board meeting—really mean for Oakland schools.

The preliminary list of 10 schools recommended for closure three weeks ago has changed.

Now, five elementary schools are recommended for actual closure in 2012—Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell, and Sante Fe. If the OUSD accepts this recommendation, these schools’ buildings will be shuttered and their 959 students will have to be relocated.

In addition, two elementary schools formerly on the chopping block—Burckhalter and Kaiser—are now being proposed for “quality expansion,” meaning that by August 2013 both schools could be relocated or undergo construction for growth.

According to Troy Flint, OUSD’s spokesperson, plans to reduce the large number of schools in the city will no longer span three years; the superintendent wants it done in two. His goal is permanent closure of 20 to 30 of the 101 schools now operating in Oakland’s district.

“It may be biting off too big of a chunk,”  Flint said Monday in a telephone interview. “But there are benefits in doing this quickly, and concentrating the pain instead of dragging it out.”

Flint said he wanted to be clear. “This is not a repudiation of the small schools movement,” he said. “We just have to be responsible financially.”

If the board accepts Smith’s recommendation, several high schools on the Fremont and Castlemont campuses—Youth Empowerment School, College Prep & Architecture, Mandela Academy, Media Academy, Leadership Preparatory, Information Technology School of Arts, and East Oakland’s School of the Arts—will be fused into a total of two schools.

Under “grade configuration change” (changing the grade level at a particular school), Smith’s recommendation suggests a merger between Sobrante Park Elementary and Madison Middle School, which would create a K-12 school in just over a year.

OUSD board members could decline all of these recommendations. Because the school restructuring issue has attracted so much attention and controversy the meeting has been moved to Oakland High School on MacArthur Boulevard at 5 pm. This meeting will only be a first discussion. Flint said a decision on his recommendations would be made on October 26.

“If the list was declined, we would have to regroup at that point—send staff back to the drawing board, or get rid of the idea of school closures all together,” Flint said.

 

correction: In an earlier version of story, quotes by OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint were mistakenly attributed to schools superintendent Tony Smith.  Oakland North regrets the error.  

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