For this senior, school closures are nothing new


When I saw on the news that my elementary school, Maxwell Park, was on the list of five schools the district wants to close, I said to myself, “Really?” “Really?”

That’s because every single school I have attended in the Oakland Unified School District has closed or may be closed.

I am a senior at Media College Prep, a high school that will be shut down and merged with two others at the end of this school year. I will be part of the last graduating class of Media.

Being phased out is not new to me.

My first elementary school, Burbank, closed in 2005; my middle school, Explore College Preparatory, closed earlier this year; my first high school, Paul Robeson Visual & Performing Arts School, closed in 2010; and my second high school, Youth Empowerment School (YES), closed this summer.

I was sad each time I got the news because I had bonded with students and teachers and those bonds would change since we weren’t going to see each other anymore. We couldn’t talk about what we were going through because most of us would end up at different schools.

There were even times when the school year was very close to starting and I still would have no idea of where I would be going to school. It is hard to leave an environment you’ve known for one or two years. It is hard to adapt to the customs and expectations of new teachers.

Even though there have been negatives to all the school closures, I’ve also learned how to adapt to new environments and people in a positive way. I’ve been able to interact with numerous personalities and adjust to new school policies. For instance, when I transferred from Robeson to YES, the bathroom policies were not any different, which benefitted me since I already experienced it. I did have to adjust to the grading system of teachers at YES since it was very different from the system at Robeson.

While I still do not know why Explore closed, I hear Robeson closed because of its low test scores. The Robeson Class of 2012 — my class — was supposed to be the last class to graduate, but in the middle of the year, OUSD decided against it.

When I heard about what the district decided to do, I felt like they lied to us. It was like they knew what they were going to do to us all along and they fed us false hopes that we had a chance to keep our school open. They made me feel like they could not be trusted, and I still feel that way.
YES closed because there were not enough teachers and the school had low enrollment, attendance and test scores. I was sad because the school had a lot of good teachers and those teachers were now trying to decide on where they were going to be teaching the following year. While I was at YES, I met a lot of good people with a lot of different personalities. Fortunately, some of the students who attended YES are here on the Fremont campus.

I did not understand the district’s reasons for closing YES. I felt there were the right number of teachers in the classroom because we all received the attention that students in small schools should receive.

I’m not saying OUSD should necessarily stop shutting schools. I understand it’s hard to fund the number of schools it has.

But the district should look more at improvements a school is making and trying to make, instead of closing a school based on test scores and attendance of previous students. The next time OUSD decides to shut a school, it should think thoroughly about how it will affect the students.

The district should think of alternatives to closing down a school completely. For example, instead of shutting down YES, the district should have combined YES with another small school that had similar problems with attendance and enrollment.

In addition to saving money, combing schools would have been a great way to save the students, their parents and the community from the trouble of finding another school.
If OUSD decides to close more high schools, they should let the freshman class be the last class to graduate, because closing schools means breaking bonds. And OUSD should never close a school that is improving — like they did to us at Paul Robeson.