Hayward school district blames declining enrollment for closings
HAYWARD, Calif. – East Bay teachers and families said they were caught off guard by a district’s proposal to close schools. The Hayward Unified School District plans to close five elementary schools next year. The district said it was based on declining enrollment.
18,000 students in the district will be affected in one way or another, either by moving to another school or by welcoming new students. School communities are doing everything to save them.
“My heart is broken,” said Christina Aguilera, a bilingual kindergarten teacher. “I think this is a direct attack on our community. I’m not happy with it.”
Aguilera is a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Glassbrook Elementary School in Hayward. She said the district investigated the 65-year-old school and asked what was broken. The teachers believed that repairs would be made. Instead, they learn that the district wants to shut it down.
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“They turned around and used this information against us,” Aguilera said. “It’s my home. It’s not just my home, it’s all of our homes.”
In addition to Glassbrook, the district is proposing to close four other elementary schools: Bowman, Eldridge, Strobridge and Faith Ringgold School of the Arts and Sciences and this is only the first phase of closure.
“We’re built here in Hayward to serve over 24,000,000 students, so basically we’re built to serve a lot more students in facilities than we need,” said Dionicia Ramos, spokesperson for the Hayward Unified School District.
Ramos said that in the past two years, the district has lost 2,000 students. Two-thirds of them have left the Bay Area. The district now faces a deficit of $ 14 million.
“There is less money to really maintain and improve the facilities,” Ramos said. “I really want to stress that this is an initial proposal.”
The plan is to move the students to more modern facilities. For example, Glassbrook students would move to Schafer Park Elementary School less than a mile away.
Maricela Garcia has two children in Glassbrook.
“I feel sad, yeah,” Garcia said. “I am sad and the children are transferred to another school that they do not know, a region that they do not know.”
“If they’re in a big school, they won’t have safety and security,” said teacher Pam Illes. “They won’t have anyone to take care of them.”
School staff said the school is more than just a building, but a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees.
“We already have relationships with families, we have relationships with students,” said teacher Francisca Montes.
“We have a legacy of caring, a legacy of support,” said Alice Wagner, a bilingual kindergarten teacher.
Above all, they said that the school is a family.
“We want to do what we can to save our school, save our community, save our family,” Aguilera said.
Ramos said the district is not planning any layoffs of teachers. The school board is expected to make a final recommendation in November.
A rally is scheduled for Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. in front of Glassbrook Elementary.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com