School district police returned to Lakeview Elementary School again Tuesday to monitor demonstrators who have been camping out there since Friday to protest the closure of Lakeview and four other elementary schools.
Protest organizer Joel Velasquez, the father of two children who attended Lakeview, said he thinks the 10 uniformed officers who came to the campus this morning timed their visit to intimidate students who were arriving for free summer school classes that activists are teaching at Lakeview.
He said the officers arrived at the school at about 8:30 a.m., shortly before classes started at 9 a.m. He said they left at about 9:15 a.m.
Some students stayed for classes, but others were scared away, he said.
School district spokesman Troy Flint said the officers went to the school, located at 746 Grand Ave. near the Grand Lake Theater, only to find out how many people were there and check on the condition of the building and the premises.
"It's well within our rights to come in and evaluate what's going on," he said.
About 40 people have been camping out in tents in front of the school, and that number increases when there are demonstrations there.
Superintendent Tony Smith has said the school district will save about $2 million a year by closing the schools, and will use that money to improve other schools.
The other four elementary schools the district plans to close are Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe.
Flint said the school district hopes the protesters will leave on their own accord but Velazquez said he and other protesters plan to stay at Lakeview.
"We think this is the right thing to do and we're making a stand," Velasquez said.
Flint said, "We reserve the right to escort them from the premises. But that's not our preferred option and it's our last resort."
The protesters are demanding that the five elementary schools remain open and that Smith resign, but Flint said "neither will occur."
The plan to close the schools was approved last October by a 5-2 majority on the school board, he said.
"We would like to try to negotiate a solution with the protesters but, given their demands, there isn't much room for compromise," Flint said.
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