The School Closure List

Oakland’s school closure recommendations are posted.

Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith and his staff are proposing the district close five elementary schools — Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe — in 2012. They would also expand two others, Burckhalter and Kaiser (either at existing campuses or at another location, and with all current teachers, staff and administrators), by Aug. 2013. The goal of the expansion, as proposed, is to be able to accommodate at least 380 students at each school.

This will all be discussed at a 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday in the Oakland High School theater. The board could vote on the school closures as soon as Oct. 12. The final date slated for a board vote is Oct. 26.

District staff estimates the five closures, along with the current merger of the Castlemont/YES high schools, will save the district $2.26 million in general-purpose funds; that figure does not count teacher costs, as the teachers would move to other schools, or special-purpose money.

Staff is also proposing a separate, earlier School Options process for the 882 general education and 77 special education students who attend the schools slated for closure (in kindergarten through fourth grade). It would run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 5, the first date of the regular Options kickoff.

In addition to the proposed closures and expansion of Kaiser and Burckhalter, staff might add grade levels, one year at a time, to Greenleaf, La Escuelta, Lincoln, Manzanita Community (which is listed as a merged campus with Manzanita SEED, the dual-language immersion school) and Sankofa elementary schools, as well as at Madison Middle School (See Slide #13). Some of those decisions are supposed to be made by Dec. 14, according to the slide.

What do you make of these recommendations?

School closure recommendations


School closure update

Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith had said he would release the school closure recommendations today, but that deadline has been pushed back. OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint said the list won’t be posted until about 5 p.m. Saturday.

“The superintendent is considering the feedback he’s had,” Flint said. “He’s weighing a lot of different possibilities that have been proposed.”

Flint said Tuesday’s meeting — in which the recommendations will be discussed, but not voted on — will be held at 5 p.m. at Oakland High School, which is on the corner of Park and MacArthur.


Does school relocation = closure?

Staff Photojournalist

Speaker after speaker, parents who came to an Oakland school board committee meeting this evening delivered this message: Kaiser Elementary School is a place where children and families who don’t fit into neat little boxes can be safe and accepted — and thrive, academically. That it’s an option for families across the city (those who manage to get in) who don’t consider their neighborhood school to be a good place for their kids.

The official school closure recommendations don’t come out until Friday, but Kaiser appeared on an early list for possible consideration. And comments made by two school board members on the committee, Jody London and Alice Spearman, seemed to suggest that the school was unlikely to remain open, even though it’s filled to capacity and financially “in the black” — in large part, because it’s not a neighborhood school.

Ninety percent of the kids who go to Kaiser travel from outside the attendance boundaries, and the criteria for school closure places a great emphasis on neighborhood schools and densely populated areas with the most need for a school.

“What I am interested in doing is preserving your program and moving it into another area of town…” board member Jody London told the group. She suggested that they talk to the principal at Emerson Elementary, a school in North Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood that is under enrolled, but she didn’t complete her thought. The parents did not take the idea well.

What do you think about the idea of moving a school from one location to another (where another school already exists)? Where has it happened successfully? What would it take to make it work?

Note: I tried to embed the video of the board members’ comments, but I’m not sure it worked. Let me know!

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School closures, “political reality”

Two weeks ago, as part of its big restructuring and school closure process, the Oakland school board approved a system of ranking schools, primarily based on where they are most needed, geographically. Board members talked about the importance of looking at the district as a whole when determining how many and which schools to close, rather than advocating for their respective districts.

That was all before anyone named names.

On Wednesday, the names of 10 schools “identified for possible closure consideration” appeared on a staff presentation, highlighted in yellow: Burckhalter, Kaiser, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park, Santa Fe and Sobrante Park elementary schools; and Claremont and Frick middle schools. (Note: The superintendent said at the meeting it was unlikely any middle schools would actually be recommended for closure. The district is already consolidating a number of its high schools and doesn’t plan to recommend any more.)

District staff members stressed that the list was not a set of recommendations, but the result of initial number-crunching — running the district’s 101 schools through the first few steps of the formula the school board members approved. They began by ranking schools according to enrollment trends, population density and facility size. Schools that are already undergoing major changes are removed from the list.

Still, with those names in black and white, the conversation changed.

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Oakland schools under “possible closure consideration”

The Oakland school district administration has posted the names of schools that could be considered for closure in 2012 under the criteria the school board approved last month. It will be discussed — but not voted on — at tonight’s 6 p.m. special school board study session.

ELEMENTARY schools “identified for possible closure consideration”: Burckhalter, Kaiser, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park, Santa Fe, Sobrante Park

MIDDLE schools: Claremont, Frick

HIGH schools: the document lists the seven schools that are already being consolidated into two schools on the Fremont and Castlemont campuses.

The document emphasizes that the list is “not a recommendation at this time.” The board is not slated to make a decision on school closures until late October. Also: Although Frick and Claremont are highlighted in yellow on Slide #9, another slide (#12) suggested no middle schools in OUSD would be closed next year. I’m sure the discrepancy will be discussed tonight.

It’s clear from the list (and further study of the criteria) that the dominant factors in this system are Continue Reading


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: Continue Reading


School closures on the horizon in Oakland

Oakland school district officials have said for years that the district runs too many schools — 101 for 38,000 students.

Superintendent Tony Smith has been judicious with his use of the `C’ word, though he’s blamed some of the district’s financial challenges — and its relatively low teacher pay — on the number of schools in the district.

Now, his staff have come up with a complex ranking system (link below) for choosing which schools to close or merge. The school board votes on the criteria tomorrow, during its 5 p.m. meeting. The closure list would be announced at the end of October, according to GO Public schools. It’s unclear from the presentation how many there would be, but I’ll let you know when I find out.

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Paper galore at Lakeview Elementary School

Lake Merritt Breakfast Club supply donation

Lakeview Elementary School should not run out of copy paper this year. Today, the charitable arm of the 78-year-old Lake Merritt Breakfast Club dropped off $2,000 worth of school supplies at Lakeview. According to the breakfast club, the savings will help Lakeview pay for someone to look after the kids at lunchtime — the kind of position that many schools have been forced to cut (or fundraise to keep).

Know of other school supply donations and drives? Tell us about them.


Oakland Fine Arts Summer School: Your (parcel) tax dollars at work

So often these days, I find myself writing about the end of things. But city’s fine arts summer school — free for any child who lives in Oakland — has weathered the downturn and years of budget cuts. Why? Measure G, a $195 school parcel tax that voters renewed (and made permanent) in February 2008, in part, to support fine arts in schools.

The program moved this year from Glenview Elementary to the Fruitvale-area campus of Think College Now and International Community School. This summer, it has more than 300 kids from public and private schools. I visited with photographer Laura Oda. You can find the story here.


The future of school counseling in California

Staff Photojournalist

When Skyline High School’s 1,900 students return to school in the fall, they’ll have to see someone else besides a counselor for scheduling, college advising, scholarships, or any of the other things that once brought them into the counselor’s office. Faced with a tough budget decision, Skyline’s principal decided to do away with the entire counseling staff.

Some of Oakland’s small schools have long functioned without school counselors, but this fall, as many as six schools — including Skyline — could be counselor-less for the first time. (OUSD staff wouldn’t give me the names, saying it wasn’t final, but I know the Frick Middle School counselor was laid off, and Betty Olson-Jones, the OEA president, said Westlake might also be without any counselors next year.)

I checked to see what was happening in other districts and wrote a story about the issue. You can find it here.

What do you consider to be the most vital roles of a school counselor? I’ve heard some say that they are regularly given test proctoring and other administrative tasks (as administrators, too, have been cut). In light of the enormous student-counselor ratios in California (810 to 1 in 2009-10), how would you change their job description to make the most of their training, expertise and time? Should they be programming students into courses, for example?