Oakland parents, teachers march to protest school closures
on October 26, 2011
Roughly one hundred teachers, parents and children marched Wednesday afternoon in protest of the Oakland school board’s decision to close five elementary schools next year, walking from Mosswood Park to the Oakland Tech campus, where the school board meeting and scheduled vote on the closures was about to start.
“Save our schools!” chanted the protesters as they marched down Broadway toward 42nd Street. Cars honked and drivers waved as they saw the parade of brightly colored T-shirts—blue for Maxwell Park and Santa Fe, yellow for Lakeview and green for the Oakland Education Association teachers’ union—moving down the street.
Karen Harper walked with her daughters Havana and Ilyana, a 3rd grader and kindergartner, respectively, at Maxwell Park Elementary, one of the schools slated for closure next year. She said Maxwell Park has been in the community for 85 years and is a neighborhood-oriented school. “This will basically destroy the community at the school,” Harper said. “It will scatter kids everywhere.”
Harper said she and her daughters walk the three blocks from their home to Maxwell Park most days, and if the school closes they will have to figure out transportation matters. “We are lucky, we can do transport,” she said. But other families may have a more difficult time figuring out the logistics of dropping off and picking up their children if schools close next year, she said.
“I don’t think the district should be closing schools,” Harper said. “They can find the money elsewhere if they need to. But it is such a miniscule savings.”
As the group began the 20 minute march to Oakland Tech, protesters walking in front of the group displayed a banner that read: “Bail out schools and services, not banks! Stop foreclosures!”
Trish Gorham, a second grade teacher at Kaiser Elementary, passed out signs that read, “I am, I teach the 99%,” a reference to the Occupy Oakland protesters who set up camp downtown in front of City Hall earlier this month and were evicted Tuesday.
Kaiser was originally one of the schools recommended for closure, but it was later removed from the final list. “We were taken off the list, but we are here in support,” Gorham said, speaking for her Kaiser Elementary colleagues. “Is it worth disrupting over 1,000 lives to save $2 million? I don’t think so.”
The marchers arrived at Oakland Tech at about 5 pm, and went inside for the school board meeting which began a few minutes later and is still in progress.
Oakland North is live-Tweeting from the meeting @northoaklandnow and will publish full coverage of the meeting Thursday morning.
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