Hundreds rally to pressure OUSD board to reverse vote on school closures
on March 5, 2022
Hundreds of people danced, chanted and marched down International Boulevard on Saturday to protest the Oakland Unified School Board’s decision to close seven schools.
Wearing Black Panther Party symbols and shirts that said “Black Joy,” they rallied to the sounds of Bay Area classics like Mac Dre and E-40. Holding signs that read: “No cuts no closures” and “Hands off our schools,” they marched nearly 40 blocks, from the former Roots International Academy to the International Community School/Think College Now campus.
They let it be known that their voices would be heard.
“The thing that is unifying all these people here today is the rejection of this idea that we need to shut down schools in our neighborhoods which are disproportionately in working class, Black and brown areas,” Jason Wins, a Markham Elementary School teacher and one of several rally speakers, told the crowd.
The demonstration was one of many that have been held since the school board voted on Feb. 8 to close seven schools in the next two years as it tries to shave $50 million from the budget. Several people — including students — have started hunger strikes. Throngs of parents, students and teachers have made emotional pleas at meetings, urging board members to reconsider. But in the past two weeks, the board has affirmed its vote.
The march started with an intertribal prayer to honor ancestors and to unite the group, with tribal representatives gathering in solidarity. Several students, parents, teachers and community organizers then delivered speeches, calling on the crowd to continue fighting for schools to remain open.
Speaker Rochelle Jenkins came to the rally with her four children, including 11-year-old twin daughters who attend Parker K-8, which is set to close at the end of the school year. She encouraged people to keep making their opposition known.
“It makes people know that we actually do have power in our voices, and our voices are powerful. They can’t hide that from us, and they can’t take that away from us,” Jenkins said.
The crowd had a lot of support from the community. Cars honked, and people waved in approval. Neighbors stepped outside to cheer, and several people joined along the way.
Under the closure plan, Parker and Community Day School will close at the end of this school year, and La Escuelita will shrink from a K-8 school to only an elementary school. Rise Community Elementary and New Highland Academy, which currently share a campus in East Oakland, will merge.
At the end of the 2022-23 school year, Brookfield Elementary, Carl B. Munck Elementary, Grass Valley Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, and Korematsu Discovery Academy will close, and Hillcrest K-8 will lose middle school grades.
The school board has been widely criticized not only by the community but by the Oakland City Council and Alameda Board of Education for the swiftness of its decision, which gives parents, students and teachers little time to process the closures.
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