Hayward school district blames declining enrollment for closures

Teachers and families in the East Bay said they were blindsided by one district’s proposal to close schools. The Hayward Unified School District is looking at closing five elementary schools come next school year. The district said it’s based on declining enrollment.

18,000 students in the district will be affected in some way either moving to another school, or welcoming new students. School communities are doing all they can to save them.

"My heart is broken," said Bilingual Kindergarten Teacher Christina Aguilera. "I feel this is a direct attack on our community. I’m not happy about it."

Aguilera is a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Glassbrook Elementary School in Hayward. She said the district surveyed the 65-year-old school and asked what was broken. Teachers thought repairs would be made. Instead, they are learning the district wants to close it.

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"They turned around and used that information against us," said Aguilera. "This is my home. It’s not only my home, it’s all of our homes."

In addition to Glassbrook, the district is proposing to close four other elementary schools: Bowman, Eldridge, Strobridge and Faith Ringgold School of the Arts and Sciences and that’s just the first phase of closures.

"We are built here in Hayward to serve over 24,000 thousand students so essentially we are built to serve many more students in facilities than we need," said Dionicia Ramos, Hayward Unified School District Spokeswoman.

Ramos said in the last two years the district lost 2,000 students. Two-thirds of them left the Bay Area. The district is now facing a $14 million deficit.

"There’s less money to really service and improve the facilities," said Ramos. "I do really want to emphasize this is an initial proposal."

The plan is to move students to more modern facilities. For example, students at Glassbrook would move to Schafer Park Elementary less than a mile away.

Maricela Garcia has two kids at Glassbrook.

"I feel sad, yeah," said Garcia. "I’m sad and having the kids transfer to another school they don’t know, an area they don’t know."

"If they are at a large school, they won’t have safety and security," said Teacher Pam Illes. "They won't have anyone looking out for them."

School staff said the school is more than just a building but a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees.

"We already have relationships with the families, we have relationships with the students," said Teacher Francisca Montes.

"We have a legacy of caring, a legacy of support," said Alice Wagner, bilingual kindergarten teacher.

Above all, they said the school is a family.

"We want to do what we can to save our school, save our community, save our family," said Aguilera.

Ramos said the district does not anticipate any teacher layoffs. The school board is expected to make a final recommendation in November.

A rally is planned for this Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. in front of Glassbrook Elementary.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at azenith.smith@fox.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com