Oakland district considering school closures due to budget shortage

What is usually a boring affair, a weekday school board meeting, was anything but Monday evening. More than 1,800 people invaded the Oa...

What is usually a boring affair, a weekday school board meeting, was anything but Monday evening.

More than 1,800 people invaded the Oakland Unified School District’s virtual board meeting to express their anger and disappointment over a plan to close, merge or downsize 16 of the district’s 80 schools. . The meeting, which began at 6 p.m., drew so many public commentators that it did not end until 3 a.m.

“I’m supposed to be sleeping right now, but I’m here to fight for our schools,” said a fourth-grader who attends a school on the chopping block.

Proposed closures in one of California’s largest school districts have rocked Oakland, with teachers go on a hunger strike and college students get out of class on tuesday. Another demonstration is planned for this weekend.

Opponents say the changes would increase class sizes, lead to layoffs, degrade the quality of education and force families to travel farther to get to school. They are especially upset that the plan was announced during Omicron’s surge, with relatively little warning.

The list of schools being considered was only made public late last week, and the board is expected to vote on the measure on February 8. If approved, most closures would occur before this fall.

“I literally begged you not to try to do this, especially during a pandemic,” Mike Hutchinson, a board member who opposes the shutdowns, said at Monday’s meeting. “How could anyone in good conscience threaten anyone with closing our schools in a 10 day process when you know our communities are suffering?”

District officials, however, say they have few options.

Enrollment at Oakland Unified has declined by more than 15,000 over the past 20 years due to declining birth rates, the pandemic and the proliferation of charter schools, according to district data.

The drop in student numbers has resulted in a $150 million annual cut in state funding for the district, which currently has an annual budget of about $700 million, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the district faces a $12.3 million shortfall in addition to $3.2 billion in needed repairs to school facilities, according to data presented at the meeting.

The district’s financial problems are so serious and so old that it is facing a takeover by state or county officials if he can’t find a solution.

Which brings us to the school closure plan.

District officials say they could save between $4.1 million and $14.7 million by combining under-enrolled schools, allowing them to reduce staff and overhead costs. Twenty-six of the schools in the district have so few students that they are considered financially unsustainable by the district.

Oakland Unified has 80 schools for its 35,000 students, while the similarly sized Fontana and Fremont school districts have about 40 schools, according to district data.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell acknowledged that the closures would disproportionately affect black students, who make up 22% of the entire district but 36% of students affected by the closures, according to district data.

“It’s not easy for me to present this information, especially knowing that African-American students and families will be most affected by these recommendations,” Johnson-Trammell said, as reported by The East Bay Times. “At the same time, we need to be equally honest about the challenges we face as a school district.”

Today’s travel tip comes from Beverly Pachner, who lives in Oakland:

“There is no better place in the Bay Area to explore plants from around the world than the University of California Botanical Garden. Located on 34 acres in Strawberry Canyon, its diverse collection includes over 10,000 plants from nearly every continent. While many are rare or endangered specimens, native plants are also well represented. Although every path is worth following, my favorite spots are the South African Hill, the Deserts of the Americas Collection, the Japanese Pool, and the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. Strolling through this incredible garden is a great way to travel around the world without leaving California.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Send your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.

The highly referential paintings of the California artist Troy Lamarr Chew II.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we ask questions about love: no Who you love, but What you love your corner of California.

Send us a love letter to your city, neighborhood, or region in California — or the entire Golden State — and we might share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

In late January, Erik Braverman and Jonathan Cottrell said “yes” to each other on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium.

The men knew their wedding would mean a lot not only to their 75 guests, but also to countless others who have seen members of the LGBTQ community struggle to be accepted in professional baseball and other sports.

Read more from their love story in the New York Times.

Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya

PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a clue: Pepperidge Farm cookie (5 letters).

Jonah Candelario, Briana Scalia and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Oakland district considering school closures due to budget shortage
Oakland district considering school closures due to budget shortage
Newsrust - US Top News
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