After a Year of Intense Community Action, New OUSD School Board Reverses School Closures

a large group holds a sign facing traffic "Protest Oakland Schools"
Students, staff, and community members protest outside of OUSD's headquarters in downtown Oakland on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. Photo by Momo Chang

In January, a new school board comprised of some newly-elected board members decided on the fate of six Oakland schools that were set to be shuttered this school year.

Last year at this time, the previous OUSD school board voted to close five elementary schools: Brookfield, Carl B. Munck, Grass Valley, Horace Mann, and Korematsu Discovery Academy, plus the middle school of Hillcrest, a K-8 school. In addition, the board also voted to close or reduce a handful of other schools in Oakland, which took place last school year (this year’s school board decision does not reverse those closures from last year).

Oakland Voices previously reported on the ongoing community protests, outcry, and hunger strikes of the school board’s decision to close schools, ones that disproportionately impact the most vulnerable students in Oakland, including English learners, special education students, and Black and Brown students.

Ultimately, voters also helped to turn this decision around by voting in two new school board members who ran on a platform against school closures.

One parent who has been involved in protesting the school closures says she is relieved about the decision.

“It’s been a pretty overwhelming and emotional year to have so much of the community against this,” Meghan Langston, a mom of a 5th grader at Hillcrest told Oakland Voices. She added that while Hillcrest is a hills school, an anomaly amongst the rest of the schools that were slated for closure this year, that almost all of the active Hillcrest parents were against all school closures in Oakland during the year of protests and community action.

Hillcrest Elementary was federally recognized as a Blue Ribbon school in 2016, and this year, was recognized as a CA Distinguished School, along with Crocker Highlands Elementary and AIMS College Prep in Oakland.

Langston added that the turmoil has caused a lot of chaos and stress, and an exodus of families because many believed Hillcrest’s middle school classes would close after this school year. “We’re all supporters of public education, and we’ve been traumatized to the point where there’s so little trust,” she said. Langston believes, though, that the enrollment decline is temporary, as Hillcrest’s middle school is historically sought after and in high demand.

But important issues loom in the district’s near future, such as overall enrollment, balancing the budget, facilities maintenance, and getting the district out of state receivership, which the school district has been under since 2003.

Author Profile

Momo Chang is a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Oakland Voices Co-Director. Her work focuses on healthcare, immigration, education, Asian American communities, food and culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Momo has received journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting and the Asian American Journalists Association, among others. Her work has appeared in the East Bay Express, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and The New York Times. Momo is primarily a print journalist who also produces audio and visual stories for documentary film and radio. She is a Senior Contributing Editor for Hyphen and formerly the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

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