Oakland schools budget crisis: Roots Academy could close by June

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Parents, teachers and community members gathered at Lake Merritt late Wednesday afternoon and marched about a half mile to the Oakland Unified School District's board meeting.

There they tried and convince the school board that it should not shut down Roots International Academy this June.

Roots Academy in the heart of East Oakland is a small middle school, just the way parent Addy Rios likes it. She said so does her seventh grade son Octavio.

"This is the first school he's felt comfortable. We moved to Oakland from Fremont and this is the happiest he has ever been," Rios said.

But just before the winter holidays the Oakland Unified School District announced it planned to close Roots of at the end of the school year.

Closing it would mean  Rios' son and the 150 current sixth and seventh graders would have to go to another school next year.

"I am very mad. It is al the feelings of being mad, being sad, worried about what is going to happen," said Rios.

"Roots is one of those schools that doesn't perform well in testing. We determined there will be better places to educate those kids," said John Sasaki, Oakland Unified School District spokesman.

Parents intend to fight to keep roots open. But with a $30 million deficit, the school district is facing the possibility of closing as many as 24 schools in the coming years.

The district is also are looking to make huge cuts in the central office.

"There are going to be layoffs. When cutting $30 million you can't do that without eliminating personnel. That's going to happen a lot at the central office," said Sasaki.

Add to that labor problems. Teachers walked out last week demanding better pay and smaller classes. And teachers are expected to vote next week on whether to allow their union leaders to call a strike.

"Everything we give the teachers has to be taken out of somewhere else," said Sasaki.

But for now the fate of Roots Academy is front and center.

"They didn't ask the community if they were okay with this. They just told us we are going to close it," said Rios.

Asked if she thought  the community can fight to save it: "Of course. We keep East Oakland alive," she answered.

The school board is expected only to discuss Roots Academy Wednesday evening. As well as other budget proposals.

The final vote on Roots is scheduled for next Monday.