This spring, I wrote about the changes at Oakland’s Lazear Elementary School under its new principal, Kareem Weaver.
Lest the year end without controversy, rumors have been circulating that the school (see below map) could be closed down to make way for a big box store.
More than 100 people came to a recent meeting at Lazear with Oakland school board member Noel Gallo. Gallo said he called the meeting to quell rumors of an imminent closure and to assure parents that a deal wasn’t going to be cut behind the closed doors of the mayor’s office or the superintendent’s office.
But the rumors aren’t entirely off-base. Gallo said he had “an informal meeting” with the owner of the adjacent shopping center, Fruitvale Station, about the possibility of leasing the land on which Lazear sits. (He said he was first approached about this two years ago, and that it’s been “an ongoing conversation.”)
Gallo said city officials, including someone from the mayor’s office, have asked him what he thought about the idea, but that he has not seen anything in writing.
“Yes, there are discussions, but we’re not closing the school, and we’re not selling the property,” Gallo said.
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Gallo noted that Lazear is under-enrolled, with about 175 students (Lazear’s enrollment is about 270); he suggested that some of the families might prefer to send their children to a higher-performing elementary school nearby, such as Think College Now and ASCEND, which are in great demand.
Before I reached Gallo, I checked with OUSD spokesman Troy Flint, who said this: “Staff have made no recommendations to close any school at this time, let alone identify specific sites.”
I emailed Weaver to see what he thought about the situation, and he wrote:
I am aware of the possibility that our campus may be looked at by developers. But frankly, our school can’t afford to be concerned with anything but school culture and academic achievement. According to the recently released rankings, our school was a “1”, and it is my belief that only happens when people choose to make other things the focus. So this rumor presents us with an opportunity to show that we’ve matured and grown as a school community. Our focus is on student learning and school culture. It has to be.