Parents aren't taking the Oakland school closures sitting down as protests continue

While Parker Elementary and Middle School in East Oakland was closed Monday for President's Day, many parents are upset their school is slated to close permanently at the end of the school year. They came to rally support in hopes of keeping it open.

"This is our community school. It's within the radius where our kids can walk there safely," said Rochelle Jenkins, the mother of two students at Parker.

But the odds of keeping it open, appear to be near impossible. The enrollment doesn't support keeping the school open, district leaders said. 

"The decision of the board to do this, and the readiness of the staff to implement it, is pretty firm," said school board President Gary Yee.

"How are they going to get to school? They have no yellow bus transportation to pick them up," said Jenkins.

But buses just may become available. 

"One of our commitments is to provide transportation when it is necessary for families. We haven't worked it all out yet," said Yee.

Parker, along with Community Day High School are set to close. Two other schools are consolidating and La Escuelita grades 6,7, and 8 are being discontinued at the end of the school year.

Next year, even more schools are closing and consolidating. Following last Friday's board vote, Yee said crowds of angry protesters appeared in his neighborhood. There was some vandalism.

"It was upsetting to wake up and have a window broken. I don't attribute it to an intentional mass thing," he said.

The school district said it is facing declining enrollment and a $40 million budget deficit over the next two years. Maintaining so many schools is too expensive, they have said. 

"Schools are not businesses. It should not be where schools have to sell themselves to have parents attend their school," said teacher Denise Huffstutler.

Does Yee regret his decision? "No, I don't," he said.

Two educators ended their hunger strike after 18 days, following Friday's vote. Other teachers, parents and even students have talked about beginning their own hunger strike over this matter.