Wednesday: Study session on Oakland school closures

UPDATE: The new time posted for the Wednesday night meeting is 6 p.m.

School closures are coming, as we discussed last week. Learn more about the Oakland school district’s plans and how this painful process will roll out at a school board study session that’s scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. 6 p.m. Wednesday at the school district headquarters on Second Avenue. Given the interest in the subject, I wonder why it’s not being held in a larger venue.

The list of schools recommended for closure or consolidation is expected to be made public by Oct. 26, but it seems like staff in some cases already have an idea of what they want to do. Teachers at Manzanita Community School, for instance, were told in a recent meeting with district staff that changes next year are quite possible, as the OUSD administration is considering expanding Manzanita SEED, a two-way language immersion school on the same campus, to a k-8 model.

OUSD has set up a web page with information about the district’s restructuring plans.

Here is the district’s calendar listing for Wednesday’s meeting:

Oakland Unified School District
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 – 06:30 PM
Board of Education Restructuring & School Closure Study Session

Board discussion of the criteria for closure, consolidation, and expansion of OUSD schools and consideration of school candidates.

For information on restructuring work underway, please visit http://www.thrivingstudents.org/restructuring.

This meeting will be held in the Board Room of the Paul Robeson Building, 1025 2nd Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606-2212.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    I understand that consolidations and school closures are a budgetary necessity, but I’m still digesting the plan for K-8 and 6-12 schools. Are we sure it’s prudent to have 5-year-olds and 14-year-olds, or 11-year-olds and 19-year-olds, attending school on the same campus? Those are some pretty wide ranges of age, size, and maturity. The administrators of those schools would surely face extra challenges in terms of maintaining safety and building school community.

    Middle-school students are in a unique place intellectually and hormonally. I hesitate to play armchair expert when there are other people working very hard to make the budget work, and of course I have no idea yet how these new schools would be arranged or run. Still, I wonder whether it’s wise to start phasing out standalone middle schools in Oakland.

  • JG

    Parents should have a choice.
    A school moving to k-8 only works if the parents are happy with the elementary school to begin with and do not want their child moving to the local middle school. Obviously there is a big difference between a 5th grader and a 8th grader in development. For those families with a 5th grader today, it is at least a more palatable choice than waiting for the middle school to improve. About 75% of Lincoln’s 5th graders leave the district each year. Some may return to go to Oakland Tech. If we don’t provide good alternatives for parents we will continue to lose students. Parents can best assess their child’s readiness and decide year to year when that child should move to a new school.

  • Alice

    The study session is a way for the board to begin looking at all suggestions/reccomendations and in the near future set criteria. It will be helpful to all of the board members to listen to all suggestions. We know that this is going to be a very personal discussion, however the fact is that OUSD has too many schools to support, there will be some changes. We the board also knows everyone will not be happy with whatever we decide, including
    some of us

  • Alice Spearman

    OUSD cannot support all the school they have now. This is just a study session for the board to consider all suggestions/comments regarding the issue of closure/consolidation of our schools, then set criteria for the closure/consolodation of any school. We know that this will be a highly emotional subject, however the fact remains the district has to do this in order to maintain financial stability and also increase the academic achievement of our lowest performing students, and maintain the increased acheivement of our highest achieveing students. There has to be equity in making the decisions also. Many will not be happy with the eventual decisions, including some board memebers, me included. However it does not change the fact that changes are needed, there will be changes made in the near future.

  • Catherine

    I have long asked for a school that serves the needs of advanced students. While I agree that 11 year olds and 19 year olds do not necessarily belong together, I know many advanced students whose families would gladly accept this alternative to leaving the OUSD system to meet the educational needs for their students.

    For students that are underachieving and need more guidance, more time to make good choices, and who may have been admitted to kindergarten at 4, thus begin traditional middle school at 10, a k-8 school makes sense to meet their needs.

    Many of us, me included, have been critical of OUSD for doing the same thing for decades and expecting different outcomes, closing and combining schools and making different schools to meet different needs is a start. I remember there was a contingent on this blog who had a lot to say about Hillcrest being the only k-8 school in the district and how it was only the rich who could afford that type of school. This board is now trying to create equitable k-8 options for many students.

    I am not happy about empty school buildings. I am not happy we are in this situation. However, I am deeply grateful the school board is working in the best interest of the students they are serving in this district rather than the teachers, principals, parents, consultants and community. It is time that we begin looking at the best ways to educate our unique group of Oakland students.

  • Concerned

    At Catherine youre saying the interest of tbe kids
    They are serving! Yes, a k-8 is fine but with SEED being and will
    be a dual immersion school, the needs of all neighborhood kids
    Are not going to be met. Where will those kids go that do not want dual
    Immersion? Off to the other schools and crowd them? Has the district
    really considered the impact of these kids with single parents, parents that walk etc?
    MCS will probably not be there next year so the district can cater to the white families so they dont leave the district!!! To the district, David Montez, abd Tony Smith FIRST CATER TO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS BEFORE CATERING TO THE FAMIELIES WITH MORE RESOURCES….IF YOU KNOW HIW TO PLAY THE POLITICS GAME In OUSD YOU GET WHATEVER YOU WANT AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS!!!

  • Nextset

    Death spiral. Just like the post office.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Wonderful points, JG and Catherine. I hadn’t considered that fifth graders might be more comfortable continuing in the schools they’d attended since kindergarten than they would starting out in new middle schools. I also didn’t realize that there were parents who WANT K-8 schools in Oakland, so it’s probably time for me to sit back and learn here. For those parents whose children have attended K-8 schools, what was the transition to high school like? Did the students face any unique challenges we should be aware of?

    And Ms. Spearman, I surely hadn’t meant to point any fingers at you! I don’t envy the burden you have, trying to make all the numbers work, and by the way, it’s always good to see you here.

  • Ann Ferrari

    When would these new K-8 schools start? I have a current 5th grader, and am quite curious and interested!

  • Catherine

    @ Concerned: I feel for you, the other teachers at Manzanita and most of all, the students at Manzanita. I can see how you probably feel it was a broken promise to the neighborhood and students at the school when it was broken into two small schools to meet the needs of the students and now there are two very distinct populations of students and one of the schools, Manzanita Community will be taken away. I feel for you, I really do.

    However, in the primary grades roughly a quarter are reading at grade level and just over half are doing math at grade level. Only 15% of fifth graders are proficient in science. There has to be a better way to educate the students from the neighborhood who begin school without having the basic letter-sound correlation. In a larger school, there are more resources for reading and math resource teachers, after school programs that have credentialed teachers and will mix the classes so that all students have a chance to work with students that have many levels of learning.

    All of that said, I wish the communities could keep the schools they were promised.

  • Michael L. Moore, Sr.

    I applaud the Superintendent and the Board of Education for having the courage to tackle this complex emotional issue.


  • Alice Spearman

    Again, the Board will be hearing all suggestion. In the end there most likley will be a combination of school configurations.
    I don’t know who can remember when the district moved from Junior High to Middle Schools, moving 6th graders from elementary schools. I almost had a fit, that year it effected my youngest daughter, (I am still not convinced it was a good idea), so I feel the concerns of a K-8. But who knows what things will look like, and there will be options for parents to consider.
    There will be equity in the decisions made.

  • JG

    Just because a school is small does not necessarily make it better. A very good small school through its reputation soon becomes a bigger school. Some of the top scoring schools in the district are larger than most. I can see some merit to having small schools where every child gets personalized attention especially where the children are very needy of services. To be honest, there is no guarantee that it happens. In the meantime, the district does not have the money to provide counselors, nurses, field trips, professional librarians, physical education teachers, more custodians, better facilities, etc. in many schools. A school serving disadvantaged children need more services not a small student body. Do we have confidence that the board can provide a leaner, better managed district with less schools? It seems that they are not promising a better education, just treading to stay afloat. Clearly, if we do nothing to lower overhead, it will be a financial diaster that will not benefit the hills or flatlands.