Matt Bigler/KCBS Radio

Oakland Unified Announces First School Closure

Community leaders vow to stop the plan.

Doug Sovern
February 09, 2019 - 3:00 pm

Oakland Unified School District has announced its first school closure in a bid to tackle a $30 million dollar budget deficit.

The determination to close or consolidate schools flies in the face of vehement community opposition, and comes as the District must also contend with a likely teacher strike later this month.

Community leaders are determined to prevent any more campuses from shutting down. But so far, the school board has voted to combine four schools into two, and close one middle school in East Oakland.

Up to 20 more schools could be shut down or consolidated, even though Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell admitted that in the short term, closing schools can cost more money than it saves. “It’s a shock to the system,” she said. “And it’s a huge change that people will respond to. However, over time, there are cost savings to making some of these tough decisions.”

Middle school special education teacher and union official Ishmael Armendariz told KCBS Radio that it makes no sense to get rid of so many of Oakland's 87 public schools, while allowing charter schools to proliferate. “Their own analysis says it’s not saving money,” he said. Armendariz insists that a dialogue around closing public schools cannot happen until the abundance of charter schools is also addressed.

Regardless, Oakland has too many schools—with more than 12,000 seats left empty by kids who have fled the system for charter or private schools. Johnson-Trammell said that no final decisions have been made.

Armedariz feels that none of this makes any sense, financially or academically. “School closures have not led to any significant reduction in costs,” he said, noting that minority students will be disproportionately impacted by the closures.

Meanwhile, the District must come up with a way to meet teachers' demands, or face a strike by the end of this month.