Classes resume at a closed elementary school in Oakland on Tuesday.
Frustrated parents have taken over Parker Elementary after the school district shut it down for good, and they have a plan to keep teaching their children.
“It’s a vision coming true,” said mother Azlinah Tambu.
As school reopens – on parents’ terms – classes are very different with around 20 pupils attending and volunteers acting as teachers.
“It’s a very dangerous part of this part of city life,” Tambu said, “life is very fast here and when you find little pockets where the community is close, that’s how we shelter our children”.
For months, Tambu protested the closure of Parker Elementary and other schools in the Oakland Unified School District alongside dozens of parents, students and teachers.
“We need this school because the other schools are further away and it’s a more dangerous walk,” said sixth-grade student Samira Tambuparris.
Despite warnings of trespassing, community members occupy the school. They say the plan is to continue classes taught by parents, students and community members.
“We have STEM science classes, we have history and ESL classes,” Tambu said. “So a full-service summer school.”
Parker Elementary is one of dozens of schools that OUSD plans to close or merge over the next two years.
OUSD officials said there was a need to tackle declining enrollment and budget hurdles.
The school district released a statement saying in part that they “recognize that some people are upset about Parker’s closure. We ask that they choose another means of protest – one that does not disrupt normal end-of-school procedures. staff year and the need to close the year.”
But parents say the closure plan disproportionately affects students of color and are asking the board to reverse its decision. Many parents say they plan to continue working and living at school until changes are made.
“If they don’t do the right thing for our kids then we’re going to step in and do it ourselves and they really can’t stop us,” Tambu said, “so they have to stop trying.”