HAYWARD, Calif. - Not long after a shortened school day ended Wednesday, signs went up and chanting began outside Glassbrook Elementary School in Hayward.
"We stand to lose a lot if we start closing schools, much more than sites," said Mercedes Faraj, president of the Hayward Education Association.
Glassbrook is one-of-five in the Hayward Unified School District that could shutter next school year. District officials blamed dwindling enrollment – down by 2,000 students the past two years. That, coupled with repairs which administrators need to balance against a $14 million budget deficit.
"It’s now presented to the community, for their feedback. So we consider this a really important phase of this process," said Hayward USD communications director Dionicia Ramos.
Community feedback has been swift and pointed. Both the signs displayed at the school, and vocal expressions from the 100 people who attended a midday rally, echoed a common sentiment.
"We have to stay strong. We can’t let the school district close all the other schools either," said Glassbrook 4th grader Arthur Porter.
Most of the students, parents and union representatives at the rally decried the district’s planned closing of schools as a cost-saving measure.
"This is my second home," said Serenity Gallagher, a Glassbrook 4th grader. "Because I feel safe and comfortable here." Added her father, Stephen, "We live right down the street, so she’s able to walk if she needs to."
Others said the issues isn’t convenience, but losing a community staple that functions as more than just a school site.
"A full-service community school is really important because that where you can bring resources to the campus, where parents don’t have to go out further to get services," said David Hernandez, executive director of the Assoc. of Educational Office & Technical Employees, a union representing school office personnel, translators, technical support, among others.
Added Dr. Robert Williams, dean of the CSU East Bay College of Education, "It’s not the traveling that is harmful. It is the ‘tax’ of being out of their community. Having to step out of their community."
It’s an angry community poised to continue its opposition to the proposed closing of five school campuses.
"We know we have to make some difficult decisions about how we utilize the spaces that we have right now," said Ramos.
Another protest 3 p.m. Thursday will take place at Strobridge Elementary School.
District officials say town hall meetings to get input from the community will be held the weeks of Oct. 18-22, and 25-29. Officials plan to make a decision on closing the schools at the Nov. 17 school board meeting.