By Post Staff
Parents and community protesters continued this week to occupy Lakeview Elementary School, one of the five Oakland schools shut this year by the school district as a cost cutting measure.
Protesters have been camping out in tents since Friday and holding daily support rallies. They also organized an informal summer school for children at the school, located at 746 Grand Ave., which had educated generations of Oakland children since it opened in 1914.
The central demand is to stop plans to close the five elementary schools – Lazear, Lakeview, Santa Fe, Maxwell Park and Marshall.
Protest organizer Joel Velasquez, the father of three children who attended Lakeview, says the school board should reevaluate its decision to close the schools.
“The money’s there, they aren’t putting it into classrooms,” said Velasquez.
“We’ve tried proposals, we’ve tried diplomacy, and the board has rejected everything. I’ve been in the school system here for nine years and been in the Oakland community for 20 years,” he said.
“I think the number one problems facing the school board are dysfunction and mismanagement. Because of these problems, they are kicking out 300 families from Lakeview,” said Valasquez.
According to Troy Flint, Oakland Unfired School District spokesperson, the protest will be allowed to continue as long as it is not disruptive.
“We understand that school closures are an emotional and divisive issue and that segments of the public have a right to express their anger with the decision. At the same time, we ask that they do so in a lawful manner that doesn’t interfere with our ability to prepare for the 2012-13 school year,” he said.
“No one wants to close schools,” Flint said, “But OUSD’s enrollment has declined by roughly 17,000 students over the past decade… We’re simply spread too thin to lift every school to the point where it can provide students the level of education they deserve.”
Protesters argue the district will not recoup the $2 million it hopes to save by closing the schools. They say the savings will evaporate because the district stands to lose many students who will not transfer to other district schools – as Lazear is set to become a charter school – and the sites will still have to be maintained.
Lakeview is scheduled to reopen as a site for administrative offices.