This story contains a correction.
A group of parents at Roots International Academy, an East Oakland middle school that's been targeted for closure, say the district's plans were made without their input. They are headed to Wednesday night's school board meeting to demand answers, saying they've been living with the fear and stress of not knowing what will happen to their students next year.
As part of its controversial plan to begin closing or merging up to 24 schools in the coming year, Oakland Unified School District had promised community input on which schools would be closed. But that's something some parents at Roots Academy say hasn't happened.
"They didn't ask us," said Ady Rios, whose son is a seventh-grader at Roots. "We were not part of it. They did it on their own."
The school district informed parents of the closure plan shortly before the winter holiday break. It pointed to the school's extremely low scores and dwindling enrollment.
Roots Academy was created in an earlier district reform effort to create smaller schools that could provide more support for at-risk students, according to teacher Rebecca Blakley. She agreed the school has been on shaky ground for a while.
"I see why, to people who are not in the school, it makes sense on paper," said Blakley. But she said her middle school students appreciate the tight-knit community and family feel of the school.
As part of its closure plan, Oakland Unified is proposing to expand the neighboring school, Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA), into the space that Roots currently occupies.
The district is still working to determine what the savings will be with the closure of Roots, said Oakland schools spokesman John Sasaki in an email.
But Blakley questions the criteria for and cost effectiveness of closing her school. If falling enrollment is a factor, she said, why pick on Roots Academy?
"I’m fairly sure other schools are suffering enrollment," Blakley said. "But they are not as quickly put up for closure."
"They are targeting us. It's gentrification," speculated Rios, the seventh-grader's mother. "There is more building going on around here and they want us out."
School district officials said they will work with Roots families to find the best placement for their children. But Rios fears that students like her son will face stigma wherever they go.
"What are they going to feel?" asked Rios. "They're coming from the school that didn't go good, because that's what you're telling them."
Another Roots parent, Sylvia Ornelas, said without a clear path for the school's students, there is fear, confusion and, for her daughter, a lot of questions.
"She was almost in tears," Ornelas said. "What is going to happen to our teachers? How are they going to go somewhere else? What’s going to happen to my friends? Are we even going to go to the same school? It’s just, like, question after question I had no answers to."