Redwood Heights braces for kindergarten boom

Earlier this year, Redwood Heights families were in a panic. Their local elementary school’s kindergarten only had space for 40 students, and a number of “neighborhood” families were assigned to other schools.

After the outcry, the district made some changes. Big ones. As of earlier this month, the kindergarten classes had more than 80 children enrolled. While they somehow managed to find space for the Class of 2020, some parents say they feel it was a Band-Aid solution — one that won’t be possible for future kindergartners.

“We don’t believe they solved the problem. We believe they created a bigger problem,” said Kim Cole, who started a group called Future RHS Parents.

Cole and others say a lot of people give fake addresses to receive priority in Oakland’s School Options program — an issue they have been calling to the school district’s attention.

“The district has not done anything about address verification,” said Judy Gestring, whose child was ultimately allowed to enroll this year.

The Redwood Heights Neighborhood Association has invited Gary Yee to a meeting this fall to discuss the issue, she says.

I wonder: How common is address falsification is in Oakland, and how much time and money should the district place on rooting out the fraud?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Richard

    Address falsification occurs in ALL of the schools. I’m all for parents being able to choose their schools; however, it is challenging to develop a rich culture of parent involvement when families live across the city from their kids’ school.

  • sharon

    In 1993 when my older daughter started kindergarten, we were greatly relieved when she was accepted into Redwood Heights under legitimate transfer. Our local school was Laurel Elementary but we didn’t know any other parents who would go there. For the 11 years we were at Redwood Heights, we met many involved parents who actually lived in Laurel’s boundaries.

    Over the past 40 years, most white and/or middle-class families living in Oakland’s transitional neighborhoods (where the “hills” and “flatlands” meet) have abandoned their local public schools. For instance, white enrollment at Bret Harte (the supposed middle school destination for Redwood Heights, Laurel and Sequoia) dropped from 97% in 1961 to 77% in 1971, to 22% in 1981, and to 12% in 1991. I expect the trajectory for Laurel Elementary is similar.

    Today’s young white and/or middle-class families are sleeping in the bed their predecessors made. White flight produced (and produces) vacancies to be filled by students from outside the neighborhood. These students, on the average, are from different socioeconomic and/or cultural groups than the average neighborhood child. Naturally, neighborhood families may feel out-of-place when they visit those schools.

    Of course, there are enough school-stressed, educated young families living in nearby $500,000, 2-bedroom bungalows to produce another demographic shift at Laurel. If they could find each other and bond, they could pioneer a re-entry into the school together. Test scores would rise and Laurel would become the school they wish it to be.

  • Maria Ku

    Just prior to the last mayoral election, Ron Dellums came to visit Joaquin Miller 4th-graders, They talked about schools, life choices in general and his own background. He told a story that his mom didn’t like the high school he got assigned to, so she used a friend’s address as her own to place him in a “good” public school.

    The story was told to 60 4-graders and their parents.

  • Katy Murphy

    Dellums also told that story at the recent teacher recruitment event in City Hall.

  • Linda

    sharon is so right. For years Redwood Hghts suffered from low enrollment, and the school was almost closed when it needed seismic improvement. Parents rallied, and the school was renovated. Many of those very parents switched to private for Middle and High school. I remember one parent saying their children had received enough of how the rest of the world lives.

    We moved into Redwood Hghts in ’98, renting a house the owner couldn’t sell for $269,000 !! Now parents flock to this area, paying a premium in part for the school, and have the right, but the unfortunate duty, to start examining the addresses of parents who used to be welcomed to Redwood Hgts, because without them the school would have been closed. I remember a PTA survey that found almost half of families were from outside the boundary.

    This becomes an extremely emotional issue for parents. I’m surprised it isn’t more divisive. But then, since we can’t manage to fix our health care, tax system (just one example: prop 13 needs major revisions), campaign laws, or the disastrous war we’ve brought on ourselves, why should anyone imagine we would come together to fix the mess we’ve made of what was once a great public school system?