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The school “phase-out” tack

You don’t need to have served on a board of education to know this: Closing schools is a political nightmare. Imagine hundreds of impassioned teenagers marching eight miles from their school in East Oakland’s King Estates neighborhood to protest its fate. I don’t need to describe the indignation, the tears, the news trucks and cameras everywhere.

But phasing schools out, one grade at a time? Allowing them to die a slow death, without forcing out any existing students? Families and kids who don’t yet attend a school are much less likely to rally around it.

I have a feeling that’s the wave of the future here in Oakland.

Tonight, the state administrator is set to approve plans to phase out BEST High School, one of two small schools remaining at West Oakland’s McClymonds campus, by 2011, and to close the nearly phased-out only Peralta Creek Middle School (Calvin Simmons) after its last group of eighth-graders is promoted to high school.

Fremont Federation’s Paul Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts has suddenly become a phase-out candidate as well. Last week, board members asked district staff to make a recommendation on the future of the small school — a performing arts school without a drama teacher. A staff report suggests that the district not admit any ninth-graders to Robeson this coming fall.

This spring, we’ll see intensive meetings about the future of a number of other Oakland schools struggling with low enrollment and/or low test scores, including: Claremont Middle School in Rockridge; Castlemont‘s small high schools; Sankofa Academy in North Oakland; Explore Middle School, in East Oakland; Far West, an alternative school in North Oakland; Madison Middle School, in Sobrante Park; and Brookfield Elementary School.

Gradual closures might be more politically palatable, but they’re still closures, all the same. Robeson, BEST and Peralta Creek are all fairly new, small schools that share campuses with other small schools, and I wonder how an influx of new students next fall would affect them.

Do you think it makes sense, from an educational standpoint, to phase out struggling schools and focus district resources elsewhere? How would this affect students and teachers and neighborhoods? How should these de-facto closures be handled?

You can find tonight’s full board agenda here.

Katy Murphy

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

  • BEST STUDENT

    The phase out of small struggling Schools in Oakland unified school District just runs a lot a questions in my mind!. Why aren’t we getting the support we need to be successful! And just exactly what is a successful school? How can OUSD expect success from their schools but yet do not support these small schools? Why is it that the person making the decision to close OUR schools does not come visit our school and see what we are all about instead of sending their “PEOPLE”. I’m so disappointed in OUSD; I don’t understand how am I supposed to be successful with a district that has discouraged me by closing my school. I personally decided to transfer out of OUSD and go to a district that cares and thinks about the STUDENTS for my next school year! And I know a few students from BEST High School that are thinking the same!” No wonder OUSD lost a lot of students to other district”. As of today, I must admit, I feel Hurt and scared for what affect this will do to my Education!

  • Jose, Former Student

    Best Student,

    I have observed that OUSD will not close a school that is doing a great job in academics. When the principal,teachers and students are doing a great job in academics other families will come to the school.

    Do you know your school’s API score? Do your teachers know your school’s API score?

    Good luck!

  • Best Student

    Jose, Your a former student, Are you even a OUSD STUDENT? Until you have been here at the McClymonds Educational Complex, then you dont know what your talking about. Yes I do KNOW our school API score, And BEST High School has some of the best teachers in the Bay Area. Jose, Can you tell me why they’re supporting EXCEL High School more? Can you tell me why the same people that decided to phase BEST out are always at EXCEL High School But hardly at BEST?
    I dont think, until you know your fact straight, then you comment on my opions! =]

  • rocky

    Best Student — if your grammar is indicative of what the instruction at BEST is like, well…. hmmmm.

  • Jose, Former Student

    Best student,

    I recommend you read my post again. Could you ask your teacher to work with you on improving your basic English skills?

    Who are “the same people” you are talking about? Could you stick to the facts of the case

  • Katy Murphy

    Just an observation: Everyone makes grammatical mistakes — even me (or is it I?), who was born into an English-speaking household and who is paid to write.

    This is an informal, online forum. Let’s try to focus on the substance of what is said, and to refrain from insulting one another.

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