Oakland schools back in session with dipping enrollment, crossing guard shortage

Summer is officially over for public school students in Oakland. Monday is the first day of school for more than 34,000 students in the Oakland Unified School District. 

OUSD's superintendent and some members of the Oakland City Council were stationed at some schools to give students a warm welcome.

Parents, especially, are hoping for a smooth start to the academic season. 

Hoover Elementary School parent Lleisha Hayes said she wants to make sure her child is safe and gets a good education. 

In spring, teachers went on a 10-day strike, which was resolved in time for the final week of school.

OUSD teachers now have a new contract, which gives first-time teachers $10,000  more than they did last year. 

Librarian Kristen Flores said that with the raise and school improvements, she hopes OUSD will be able to recruit excellent teachers. 

Even so, Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell said they are beginning the school year with 65 vacant teacher positions.

"We've ben making contingency plans throughout the summer, anticipating we would have some schools where a teacher wouldn't be present on the first day," she said.

Like most public school districts, especially in the Bay Area, enrollment is declining.

In a budget document from the district's chief business officer earlier this year, the district estimates a nearly 11-percent drop in elementary school enrollment, compared to the 2018-2019 school year. 

Johnson-Trammell said that most urban school districts across the nation have a chip in enrollment. Birthrates are also trending downward, she said. Plus, it's simply expensive to live in the Bay Area, and families are moving away. 

"We're looking at the things we can control and trying to be as aggressive as possible with that," she said.

In addition to teachers and students, there is also notable shortage of crossing guards, which the city of Oakland pays for. About a dozen schools still don't have enough.

The district is urging people to apply for these jobs. Starting pay is $18 an hour. 

"Anybody can come and do this work, it's a pretty simple job," district spokesman John Sasaki said.