FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 19, 2012
WHAT: Press conference with parents, teachers, and neighbors of Santa Fe Elementary, as well as civil rights attorney Michael Siegel
WHEN: Tuesday, March 20 at 2:45 pm.
WHERE: The steps of Santa Fe Elementary, 915 54th St. at Market in North Oakland.
Marianne Moore, North Oakland Neighborhood Assembly
Phone: (508) 241 0698
Michael Siegel, Law Offices of Siegel and Yee
Phone: (510) 839 1200
PRESS CONFERENCE AT SANTA FE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
TUESDAY, MARCH 20 at 2:45 PM
On March 12 the Oakland Tribune reported that Superintendent Tony Smith has rescinded his plan to close 20-30 Oakland schools over the next two years. Though at the beginning of this year the financial projection for the district was so dismal that the only way to break even was to close five elementary schools immediately and plan to shutter many more, apparently this coming school year the district will be operating without a structural deficit in its budget for the first time in years. http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_20149024/oaklands-painful-school-closure-era-might-be-over
The parents, teachers, and community of Santa Fe Elementary School are outraged and incredulous at Mr. Smith’s hypocrisy. If the money can be found to keep thirty schools open, surely there’s enough to keep thirty-five open. The district’s “plan” will disrupt thousands of lives for no reason.
Santa Fe is an historical Oakland school serving a deeply-rooted, African-American and working class community. The school has a baseball team and outstanding after-school and tutoring programs. The grounds are decorated with beautiful murals. In the OUSD’s Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Competition, Santa Fe has taken first prize eight years running.
The OUSD plan to close Santa Fe makes no accommodation for the transportation needs of families who will no longer be able to access their neighborhood school. The majority of Santa Fe’s parents currently walk their children—Madeline Jackson and her 3rd-grader, Sabrina, live five minutes from Santa Fe. “When I heard about the school closing, I was devastated,” she said. “On days when I have to work, my mom doesn’t drive, so it’s very convenient for my mom to walk my daughter to school.” If the school closes, Madeline will enroll her daughter in Emerson, a twenty-five minute walk from her house. “My mom has diabetes, so she really can’t do a lot of walking—she gets tired,” she added. “It would be different if they had buses for our children, to transport the children to school.” As yet, the district has provided no busing option for children like Sabrina. Elementary school kids — as young as five years old — will be expected to catch AC Transit buses to their future school site. The district has told parent that a lottery will be held to determine which students receive free bus passes. No bus passes will be available for parents.
The Santa Fe campus has long had an SDC-NSH program (Special Day Class, Non-Severely Handicapped), a special education classroom where students with learning disabilities can get the individual attention they need. Not every school in the district has such a program—the district’s current plan is to move all the students who participate in the SDC to Acorn Woodland School in East Oakland. Though these students will be bussed, this will be an extraordinary hardship for low-income parents without convenient transportation. How will they attend school events, after-school programs? How will they get to the school in case of emergency?
Oakland civil rights attorney Michael Siegel is advising the Santa Fe community in their struggle to save their school. ”The Santa Fe parents and students are being deprived of their fundamental right to an education,” Siegel stated. ”By depriving students of a neighborhood school, they are being forced to travel great distances, without assurances of safety, and without transportation for their parents, which puts them at a great disadvantage in comparison to other students. Taking away full-day special education is also a very serious issue. We are concerned that OUSD is doing tremendous harm by pursuing this school closure strategy, without evidence of any corresponding benefits to the community.”