McClymonds High parents express concern for students health, education following campus closure

Parents expressed concerns about McClymonds High School closing.
McClymonds Coach Ben Tapscott and others demanded answers.

On Monday, February 24, McClymonds High School staff and Oakland Unified School District representatives shared plans to temporarily relocate all enrolled students following the recent discovery of a cancer-causing in nearby groundwater. 

Principal Jeffrey Taylor called the overflowing community meeting to order inside the West Oakland Middle School Library since the high school has been closed.  The agenda covered temporary instructional plans for students displaced from McClymonds and an update on the facts ascertained in the initial screening of the High School in response to vaporizing TCE (trichloroethylene) discovered on the campus.

The students will spend most of their instructional time on day trips with activities, like walking through the surrounding area to study gentrification and participating in a number of hastily assembled field trips. The choices were informed by what campuses had space and data that parse the feeder schools’ current students attended previously to inform their choice of potential campuses. 

Parents and students raised questions about safety concerns for children in a potentially hostile neighborhood and the loss of instructional time. One McClymonds alumni asked how students with dual enrollment in the Peralta Colleges would be accommodated. Officials assured that agreements had been reached and the programs would adjust to meet the needs of impacted students. 

When pressed about the rigorousness of the remaining 189 instructional days and how students planning to attend college next year would be impacted, officials’ responses appeared less clear and to be a temporary solution crafted to get the students through this week. To date, officials shared no plans for online study or in the event the problem is not resolved this week.

Ninth graders will temporarily attend classes at Ralph J. Bunche Academy, 10th and 11th graders will attend West Oakland Middle School, while seniors will be relocated to West Lake Middle School. Other special arrangements will be made for students with special instructional needs. 

Parents expressed concerns about McClymonds High School closing.

Parents and educators in the audience raised concerns about disability access and the needs of students with Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs,  and asked if there was a plan in place to offer additional instructional days. Officials provided few answers beyond the four-day relocation plan. District spokesman John Sasaki said students who do not attend their reassigned schools will be marked absent.

A fact sheet prepared by Dilan Roe, chief from the Land and Water Division of Alameda County Department of Environmental Health shared a summary of what was known about the toxic incident at McClymonds. The document shared information about data gathered from testing indoor and outdoor air, soil vapor, groundwater, and drinking water samples from the campus.

The samples collected, under the oversight of the California Department of Toxic Substance Control and the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health assist in evaluating risks to students and teachers from TCE.

Samples were collected on February 22nd and 23rd. Those results revealed no TCE in indoor room air, on the Plaza of Peace, the football field, or in drinking water vapor. Tests found found small concentrations of TCE in vapor above the groundwater in a sump in the basement boiler room and in vapor in an outside storm drain. No TCE was detected in the air or in the breathing zone in these locations.

Next steps will for the shuttered site include additional testing to confirm the results by submitting them to a laboratory for expedited processing and expect to share those results publicly by March 9. 

West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project will host an Environmental Town Hall on  February 26 at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street. Councilperson Lynette McElhaney (District 3) will facilitate. The Town Hall will address community concerns and provide updates about the immediate future of McClymonds High School. Supervisor Keith Carson and State Assemblyman Rob Bonta are expected to attend.

OUSD will host additional meetings on Wednesday, February 26, at West Oakland Middle School Library, 991 14th Street. The meetings will be at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Author Profile

Ayodele Nzinga is an arts and culture theoretician/practitioner working at the intersections of cultural production, community development, and community well being to foster transformation in marginalized communities. Nzinga holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing and Consciousness and Doctorate of Philosophy in Transformative Education & Change; she resides in Oakland, CA. Described as a renaissance woman, Ayodele is a producing director, playwright, poet, dramaturg, actress, performance consultant, arts educator, community advocate, and a culture bearing anchor. Ayodele is the first poet laureate of Oakland.

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