HAYWARD, Calif. - Hundreds of school families and teachers rallied ahead of a critical vote to close four schools in the Hayward Unified School District. The district said the closures are necessary because of declining enrollment
Ahead of the meeting, there was a rallying cry at the Hayward Unified School District "Save Our Schools."
"They are so many people who do not know Bowman is under threat of closure," said Bowman Elementary School Teacher Emily Worth.
Three elementary schools are set to close, Bowman and Strobridge next year. In 2023, Glassbrook and Ochoa Middle School are proposed to close.
The district originally proposed to close eight schools but after community pushback reduced it to four.
Hayward Unified, like many school districts in the Bay Area, is facing significant challenges.
"We cannot responsibly ask our community for $900 million to improve our facilities when we don't have the number of students to require it," said Assistant Superintendent of Business Allan Garde.
Among the issues is costly repairs to 60-year-old schools when enrollment is declining, 20% in the last 20 years.
The district said, gentrification and rising housing prices are to blame for the parent exodus from the district.
"Our current demographer is continuing to project declines in enrollment and this is reiterated by the state’s own projections over the next 10 years, focusing on Los Angeles and the Bay Area being hardest hit," said Garde.
The district said it began exploring school closures in 2019 but many said they were caught off guard.
"All of the students, all of the teachers and all of the community just feel really lost to have Bowman be shut without any input from the community," said Worth.
"It would have to be figuring out how are we going to get them to school," said Parent Andrea Rivera.
Rivera has a first and fourth grader at Bowman Elementary. She worries about transportation and traffic. They love their community school. Her children held signs.
"My mom went to Bowman, and now my brother is at Bowman and I like Bowman. I’ll be upset," said Rivera.
At Bowman Elementary, a small group watched the virtual board meeting together. Among them is a special education teacher who said her students feel like they belong at their school.
"All their little quirks are just accepted," said Bowman Special Education Teacher Loren Spina. "They are part of the school and if I go to another school it will be like starting from scratch."
Public comment is underway. A decision is expected Tuesday to either close schools, make more revisions or take no action.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.