Budget Deficit Forces Oakland Unified School District to Consider Closing Some Campuses

How many campuses will Oakland's school district have to close to save itself from going broke?

That's the question many students, parents and teachers are asking themselves ahead of a Wednesday school board meeting. The district continues to grapple with a budget deficit and needs to make serious cuts to save money.

The student union says it understands the district is in a tough financial situation, but is asking the board to save critical afterschool programs that help students prepare for college.

Oakland Unified School District is dealing with two problems at the same time: there is dwindling student enrollment and a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

District officials said the solution to their money woes is closing down schools.

How many schools could be closed? The district is still trying to figure that out.

In a video posted on Facebook, the district's superintendent said Roots International Academy, a middle school in East Oakland, will need to close. But more cuts still need to be made.

"These will be extremely difficult decisions that will affect numerous valued members of our OUSD family and how we offer programs to school sites," Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnston-Trammell said.

Parents and students took over the board meeting Wednesday to protest the closure of Roots, marching around the auditorium with banners, signs and bull horns shouting, "We are Oakland, keep Roots open."

"We have currently have too many schools across the city with regards to how many students we have," said OUSD's spokesman John Sasakai. "We have 37,000 students and have roughly the same amount of schools when we had 50,000 students."

If closed, Roots students would be dispursed to other middle schools. Board members will meet again Monday to vote on whether Roots will stay open or close.

"It’s a very difficult decision," said OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. "Today was to be able to hear from the communi, next step is to have serious conversations before a final decision is made."

This all comes on the heels of a possible teacher's strike next month. The union said teachers will vote next week on whether to allow their union leaders to call a strike.

Oakland teachers are demanding a 12 percent raise over three years and want smaller class sizes.

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