By Ken A. Epstein
Parents and supporters held a rally and press conference in front of Santa Fe Elementary School in North Oakland this week to oppose the school district’s decision to close the school at the end of June.
“When I first found out that Santa Fe was closing, I was devastated. Sabrina and I walk to school every morning, ” said parent Madeline Jackson, standing with her daughter Sabrina as she spoke at the press conference and rally Wednesday.
The school district’s Board of Education decided in October to close Santa Fe, located at 915 54th St.. Four other schools – Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park – will also be shut as part of the district’s restructuring and cost-cutting process.
The closures will save an estimated $2 million a year.
Parents seemed to have grudgingly accepted in the fall that school closings were inevitable. But that changed this month when the district announced, whatever its financial condition, it is rescinding a plan to close 20-30 Oakland schools over the next few years.
If 20 or schools or more will be saved, why not the five already on the block? Parents and community members began to ask.
“This is the second school I have been at that has been closed in this community,” said teacher Lena Williams.
“This is the last school that is a public school that is open in the 94608 area code. Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, every single school the school board has closed down has been African American or Latino.”
“Safety is a big issue when dealing with small children,” said Thearse Pecot, a grandparent with children at the school, pointing out that some students will have to walk more than two miles to another school.
District spokesperson Troy Flint said many factors were involved in choosing which schools to close, but schools ultimately are being closed for financial reasons.
“We have too many schools for the number of children we have. We have twice as many schools as the typical district our size,” he said. “What we are doing is scaling back to allow us to concentrate our time, resources and money.”
Santa Fe currently has 16 teachers and 245 students. The students are 81 percent African American and 8.6 percent Latino, while 9 percent are English learners, according to the state.
About 71 percent of the students receive Free and Reduced Price Meals.