4 Oakland schools to merge into 2; angering some but saving district $3M over 5 years

Four schools will merge into two in Oakland, angering some parents but saving the district more than $3 million over the next five years.

Kaiser Elementary School, which has less than 300 students, and the School of Language dual immersion middle school will close at the end of the school year, the Oakland school board decided Wednesday.

Kaiser will merge with Sankofa Elementary, which is about 3 miles away. And the School of Language — or SOL — will merge with Frick Academy, about a mile and a half away.

The decision was made despite nearly five hours of pleading, tears and chanting from parents, students, and teachers who opposed the decision, according to EdSource and the East Bay Times.

Students and parents feared they would lose the sense of community they had at the schools.
But the closing and merging of schools is necessary, the Oakland Unified School District has long argued because it's operating twice as many schools as districts of comparable size and faces ongoing budget woes. Student enrollment has dropped by more than a third in the past 15 years, an Alameda County civil grand jury report said this summer, and operating schools with too few students is costly.

For comparison, Oakland runs 87 schools for 37,000 students, while the Fremont Unified School District operates 42 schools for 35,000 students, the Chronicle reported. 
District spokesman John Sasaki told the Chronicle that no one will lose their jobs because of the consolidation.

The board also voted Wednesday to expand Melrose Leadership Academy, a K-8 dual immersion school,  and invest more money into the under-enrolled Fruitvale Elementary School, in the hopes that more families in that neighborhood will choose to send their children there, EdSource and the East Bay Times reported.

The mergers were pieces of the recently approved Citywide Plan, which found the district could close or consolidate up to 24 of its more than 80 schools and still serve its roughly 37,000 students. Its plan is to redirect funds to remaining schools to improve their quality. The school district estimates these closures will save more than $3 million over the next five years, the Chronicle reported.

Over the past 15 years, the district has faced annual deficits between $20 million and $30 million, according to the grand jury report.