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Oakland Unified Changes Attendance Boundaries of Some Grade Schools

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Barbara Grady/ Oakland Local

Parents wait outside a Cleveland Elementary School classroom.

A year after expanding the attendance boundaries of several schools to accommodate kids from four schools it closed, the Oakland school board on Wednesday voted to shrink the boundaries of Crocker Highland Elementary School area after huge enrollment in September led the school to scramble to open a fourth kindergarten.

Figuring it would have "chronic oversubscription" at the school based on 2010 U.S. Census data showing the number of toddlers in the neighborhood and realtor reports of new families moving in, district staff recommended making the boundaries a smaller circumference around that  school and widening the attendance area of nearby Cleveland Elementary School. Cleveland is a similarly high performing school with an education program that is much like Crocker Highland's, district staff said. Crocker Elementary had an Academic Performance Index score of 953 last year and Cleveland a score of 837. Both of those numbers are considered high.

Dozens of parents showed up to the Oakland Unified School District board meeting. Most of them have children who are not yet old enough to attend school, but the spoke of worries about where their kids would go. Many agreed with the plan that eventually was adopted by the board. It can be read on the board's agenda HERE as the fourth. It takes a triangular area that stretches from Lakeshore Avenue to Grand Avenue up to Rosal/Fairbanks avenues and puts that in the Cleveland Elementary School attendance area. Most of the triangle used to be part of the Lakeview Elementary School attendance neighborhood before Lakeview was closed last summer.

The OUSD has struggled with adjusting to ever changing enrollment. With its total enrollment rapidly declining, it voted in 2012 - amid much protest - to close five elementary school buildings over the summer and reassign the students. The parents and teachers of one school transformed their school to a charter school rather than accept the closure. Now some schools in the district are over subscribed, typically the highest performing ones. 

Wednesday's board meeting was the first for newly-elected members Roseann Torres and James Harris. Both were quiet and voted in tandem with other board members in approving this plan, as well as other items.

Accenting the checkered performance records of the various schools in the district, another major item before the OUSD board Wednesday was the need for 13 schools to seek waivers from meeting the terms of state education grants they received to help boost student performance through small classroom sizes and retaining experienced teachers.

The state's Quality Education Investment Act grants were given to 488 schools in California five years ago, 13 of them in Oakland. But to continue receiving the grant money year after year, schools have to keep their class sizes small and must retain experienced teachers, with a benchmark of seven years experience as the average among teachers.  Wednesday night, all 13 schools were seeking waivers from the terms of the grant. Many of the waivers were for small discrepancies, like having 21 kids in a classroom instead of 20, or 17 kids instead of 16. Many missed the teacher experience benchmark by a fraction of a year. Still it was noteworthy that none of the 13 schools had met all the terms of the grant. The waivers allow them to still receive most of the grant money.

"QEIA schools have demonstrated meaningful to significant growth in academic achievement overall as a result of implementing the various strategies outlined in the QEIA program" OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith said in a report to the board. He said he thinks the problems that led to seeking waivers are "correctable."

The district's David Montes de Oca, executive director of its Quality Community Schools Development effort, said that since the recession and the state's sharp reduction in overall education funding, the "QEIA funding no longer covers the cost of reduced class sizes," a main term of the grant. He said that "seeking waivers has become part of the fabric of how QEIA," is administered. 

Still, none of the 13 schools met both the class size and teacher experience terms of the grant. Those schools are Acorn Woodland Elementary School, as well as Bridges@Melrose, Brookfield, Garfield, Horace Mann, Manzanita Community, Markham, New Highland and Parker elementary schools and four middle schools: Claremont, Frick, Madison and Urban Promise. 

Source: Oakland Local [http://m.oaklandlocal.com/article/oakland-unified-changes-attendance-boundaries-some-elementary-schools]

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