Tuesday marked two weeks since the former campus of Lakeview Elementary School became an Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) administrative hub. Lakeview was one of five elementary schools the district decided to close after the end of the 2011-2012 school year, despite protests from the community. The campus is now home to OUSD’s Family, Schools, and Community Partnerships (FSCP) department, which was previously scattered among four locations. One of the first services the site began providing was enrollment, which attracted a crowd of parents Tuesday morning.
The opening of the campus as an administrative center came only a few months after a tent city was established on the Lakeview campus to protest the closure of the school. The camp lasted for a little over two weeks before OUSD police evicted the encampment in early July; on that same day, protestors marched to the home of school district superintendent Tony Smith, calling for him to re-open the school or resign. Lakeview protestors later urged the Alameda Central Labor Council to sanction a picket line to prevent district administrators from entering the school, but none was authorized.
“Obviously, the transition to Lakeview has been complicated,” said OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint. “But the end result of a one-stop shop for community services will be a huge improvement.”
On Tuesday morning the front entrance of the school remained gated and print-outs with arrows directed all vehicle and foot traffic up the roadway entrance off Grand Avenue to the parking lot. Parents enrolling students in grades K-12 stood in a line underneath white tents, waiting to get inside the portable building unit designated as the new Student Assignment Center. Meanwhile, two large Nor-Cal Moving Services trucks sat just outside the parking lot, as workers unloaded cargo and transported boxes and furniture into the main school building.
The district’s enrollment center and the Transitional Students and Families Services department, which assists migrant, homeless and refugee students as well as those from families seeking asylum, opened first on August 14. Other FSCP departments began relocating shortly thereafter, including Translation Services, which helps bilingual families with everything from enrollment to school site parent meetings and Individualized Education Plans for special needs students.
Other FSCP departments include Family Engagement, which handles volunteerism and community building; Health Services, which supports the school-based nursing staff; and Social and Emotional Learning, a new district program which will focus on teaching students to manage emotions, relationships and decision-making in a positive manner.
Previously, FSCP staff had been working out of four separate locations throughout East and West Oakland, which are now consolidated at the Lakeview office. “If you’re a family and you have a 4-year-old and 6-year-old and you need to have one in preschool and one in elementary school, and you’re homeless, you’ll have everything in one place to get your needs taken care of,” said FSCP associate superintendent Curtiss Sarikey.
Sarikey said all of the departments are expected to finish moving in this week, with the exception of Health Services, which will complete its move in September, bringing the number of in-house staff to about 100.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nicole Beaudreaux, who was there to enroll her daughter in the ninth grade, said the new facility was “a little easier to get to” than the former K-12 enrollment office at 2111 International Boulevard. But, she said, “It’s not easier to get inside. It’s still new though, so I’m going to give them a little while. They’ve got to get better.”
On the first floor of the main school building in a former kindergarten classroom, Kiko Garcia worked with parents enrolling preschoolers. Garcia is a preschool teacher who has assisted with the district’s Pre-K enrollment for the past three years. The previous location at 495 Jones Avenue was “just a big room,” he said. “[This] office is much bigger, there is more light.” Access to parking was another improvement, he added.
Dalila Sanchez enrolled her son Fernando in preschool for the first time. “It’s very convenient,” she said of the Pre-K office.
OUSD Spanish translator Cynthia Ovando was also assisting Spanish-speaking students and parents with enrollment throughout the day. She found that the relocation had been confusing for some parents, and had made services more difficult to access for others. “It is challenging for several of our parents who live in East Oakland to come here,” said Ovando. “There’s definitely confusion and frustration.”
She added that the warm weather has been another source of “frustration and physical stress for staff and parents,” so district workers began providing water on Tuesday for parents waiting in line outside. “We’re doing the best we can,” she said.
Andrea Bustamante, director of community school partnerships, was guiding movers as they transported items to and from the school’s auditorium, which is currently serving as a staging area for chairs, desks and boxes destined for offices. Bustamante says the auditorium will be later used as a community space for large events like professional development workshops for afterschool program staff or collaborative meetings with families. She said that they’ve preserved the school’s artwork, like the auditorium’s “Lakeview Leopards” mural, and hope to place more art from local schools and programs, as well as pictures of students and families, around the building.
For now, classrooms-turned-offices are labeled by sheets of paper taped up on windows and doors. Sarikey said they are planning to create a reception area just outside the auditorium to welcome guests through the school’s front entrance. “One hundred percent of every classroom and every portable is being used,” he said. “It’s a very different set-up.”