Community Day staff fear school site is slated for housing development

By Zack Haber

Staff who work at the community day school, which the Oakland Unified School District Board of Trustees has planned to close at the end of the school year, expressed frustration to The Oakland Post about the possibility that the site campus be converted into housing. According to OUSD communications director John Sasaki, board chairman Gary Yee sought to develop the site.

“Board Chairman Gary Yee has been open about his desire to consider the Community Day School site as a possible location for educator housing,” Sasaki wrote in an email. mail to the Oakland Post. “He continues to explore that idea.”

Yee visited the site during school hours on February 25. Joshua Simon, whose work history includes real estate development and consulting for non-profit organizations, accompanied him.

Yee did not respond to two emails seeking his comment on this story which included questions related to his school visit. Simon said he did not join Yee on the site visit in a professional capacity.

“As someone with a career working on nonprofit community benefit projects, I am often asked for my opinion,” he wrote in an email to The Oakland Post. “In that case, I had no advice to give. I met Mr. Yee as a private citizen.

Sandra Backer, administrative assistant at the community day school, said neither Yee nor Simon signed in the school’s visitor log. Staff members objected to the duo coming to campus unannounced and without signing in during class hours.

“It was very disrespectful and showed a disregard for our school’s politics and safety,” said Vernon ‘Trey’ Keeve III, an English teacher at Community Day School. “If you’re visiting a public school, the first thing to do is sign in.”

Rachel Machtinger, a therapist who works at the school, said she “felt angry because they thought they were just allowed to come to campus unannounced.”

In an email from Yee to the director of Community Days, which was later forwarded to staff, Yee apologized and said, “It was insensitive of me to come during the school day and without informing you. in advance.”

Keeve speculated that Yee was checking the land for a possible development project. This upset Keeve, in part because Yee had not visited the school in recent months as the council considered whether or not to close the school.

“It was like a blatant slap in the face,” Keeve said. “So he has time to drop by and walk around the grounds but he doesn’t have time to visit us and see the work we are doing here? When you consider where our campus is, would it be a nice sight if something was built there? »

Community Day takes place in the Leona Heights neighborhood of Oakland, which includes a park in a densely forested redwood furrow.

To create housing on its 17-acre campus, Community Day would first have to be closed. School staff and a student recently spoke out against the planned closure of their school, indicating that the site serves a unique purpose that cannot be replaced. Community Day is the only school in Oakland where expelled students can attend in person as they work to clear their expulsion with the district.

To rent or sell the Community Day campus for housing, the district would also have to form a new 7-11 Committee members of the community who would then have to declare their campus as surplus property. There is recent history of the district forming such a committee, declaring the OUSD property surplus, and then renting the property for housing.

A 7-11 committee was formed in 2019 and met from May to December of the same year. In Decisions 9-1 and 6-4, this committee voted to declare two OUSD properties vacant, a former school for adults and a former development center for children, as “surplus”. On June 30 last year, the OUSD board then voted 5-2, with Yee voting yes, to lease these properties for 65 years to Eagle Environment Construction Inc., a private company that plans to build market-priced housing, a job training site for residents, and subsidized housing. The lease stipulates that at least half of the accommodation will be reserved for OUSD employees. Members of the Oakland Education Association and SEIU Local Lodge 1021 spoke out against the lease at that meeting.

Machtinger, along with Keeve, expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of ​​turning the Community Day campus into housing and coupling that plan with educator housing. Machtinger felt that profit could be a primary motivating factor in such development.

“It seems questionable to me because it’s such attractive real estate,” she said.

Keeve felt that creating housing for educators would not address the root cause of teachers not earning living wages in Oakland.

“If there’s anything capitalism would do, it would be to create ‘teacher housing’,” they said. “Teachers should just be paid a living wage for the places they live. It seems like a strange bandage to put on this gaping wound.”

Keeve said they felt living in “teachers’ accommodation” would make it difficult to create a separation between work and play. They wouldn’t want to live around a group of people doing the same job as them because it would remind them of work.

“I love my colleges and collaborating with other educators while I’m at work,” they said. “But I also create boundaries.”

These days, the future of Community Day remains uncertain, Yee has not publicly declared any housing search plans at the site, and Keeve remains focused on teaching.

“Right now, I just want the students to have a good time and get what they need before the school year ends, and this place might close,” they said.

Recently, thousands of community members pushed back school closures in Oakland, including Community Day. Since five board trustees, including Yee, voted to formally ask the district to recommend a list of schools for consolidation in mid-January, they’ve seen staff, parents, students, and members of the community push their limits in the form of protestswalkouts of teachers and students, a hunger strikeand over a thousand e-comments and comments against closures before and during meetings.

The community specifically objected to the disproportionate effect of the closures on black and Latino students. Two administrators, Mike Hutchinson and VanCedric Williams, have also repeatedly voted against the closures. In meetings last month, despite the pushback, the board has voted to close, merge or downsize 11 schools over the next two years and then voted against a resolution to delay consideration of planned closures at the end of this school year for another year.

After the votes, the pushback continued in the hope that school closures could still be stopped. March 5, hundreds took to the streets to protest the planned closure of schools in Oakland. The Oakland Education Association is also continuation of legal proceedings to stop the closures by filing an unfair labor practice lawsuit accusing the district of violating an agreement reached in 2019 that requires a year-long engagement process before any closures can take place.

Sara H. Byrd