I posted a blog entry in December titled “Are Oakland’s `hills’ schools becoming more exclusive?” It was a rhetorical question, but I can now answer it definitively: Yes.
Here’s the back story: Back in December, a stream of Montclair Elementary School parents and others urged the Oakland school district not to expand their school’s local attendance boundaries. The change had been proposed to alleviate crowding at Hillcrest, which — like Montclair — has high test scores and is located in an affluent part of town.
The Montclair parents spoke about the importance of preserving the school’s racial and socioeconomic diversity and warned of overcrowding. (Chabot Elementary parents made a similar plea for the Rockridge school.) They argued that with a larger attendance area, the school would no longer have room for student transfers whose families who couldn’t afford the local real estate.
The latest: Montclair’s boundaries stayed the same — likely, because the parents’ arguments gave board members pause. But it turns out that the school doesn’t have room, anyway, for the children parents spoke of. Even the younger brothers and sisters of Montclair’s current “out-of-neighborhood” students were turned away for the coming fall, not to mention first-born kids who live in the flatlands.
A brief explanation: Oakland Unified has a neighborhood-first enrollment policy. But some schools — such as Montclair — had enough remaining space to enroll kids from other parts of the city through Oakland’s School Options process.
Not this time around. According to the school district’s 2008 Options data, Montclair had 81 neighborhood applications for, if I’m not mistaken, three kindergarten classrooms.
Montclair is not alone. Few, if any, of the highly popular “hills” elementary schools were much of an option this year for kids who live near struggling schools. Chabot, too, will likely have less room than before, since it admitted 13 Hillcrest-area children who were displaced from their neighborhood school.
That’s not to say children need to attend one of those schools to receive a good education. It’s just that the choice really isn’t there unless you live in the neighborhood — and maybe not even then.
What happened at Hillcrest? According to Options data, 22 future kindergarteners from the Hillcrest area were admitted to nearby hills schools after being bumped from Hillcrest. In addition to Chabot, eight were assigned to Thornhill and one to Kaiser.
I’ve requested some other information along these lines, which I’ll report soon. In the meantime, if you have good ideas for the district’s long-term enrollment plans and attendance boundary changes, you can weigh in at the next meeting of the Special Committee on School Admissions, Attendance and Boundaries. It’s at 7:30 a.m. Friday in the district office, 1025 Second Ave.
Here is the agenda.
image from aryah’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons