OAKLAND — Demonstrators, their tents and their signs of protest remained at Lakeview Elementary School by Lake Merritt on Tuesday, four days after the last day of school.
The protesters are demanding that the Oakland school district immediately stop plans to close five elementary schools — Lazear, Lakeview, Santa Fe, Maxwell Park and Marshall — and that it provide transportation to all displaced students.
Organizers of the sit-in, which began on Friday, said Oakland School Police officers again came by the campus around 9 a.m. Tuesday, telling protesters that they must leave the property. They said some families obeyed the orders, fearful of a confrontation with law enforcement.
“Parents are understandably uncomfortable with having their children there,” said Ann Berlak, a retired teacher who has been advocating against Lakeview’s closure.
Last fall, the Oakland school board voted to close and merge a number of schools by the end of the school year. Superintendent Tony Smith said the decision was necessary.
In an era of state budget cutbacks, he said, the district’s resources were spread too thinly between its nearly 100 schools. He estimated the closures, in addition to a number of mergers, would save the district about $2 million a year, funding that could be spent on remaining programs.
Opponents, including some of the Lakeview sit-in organizers, said the plan would backfire by creating instability and
driving more families from district-run schools. Families at Lazear Elementary in Fruitvale applied to convert their school into an independently run charter to keep it open, a request the Alameda County Board of Education approved on appeal last week.
Joel Velasquez, whose children attended Lakeview, said the group has no plans to leave the area. The effort has drawn support from local businesses and residents sympathetic with the cause, he said. On Tuesday, passers-by brought coffee and bagels. A sign on the Grand Lake Theater marquee, questioning the school board’s decision, remained up.
“It’s been very inspiring,” Velasquez said.