This past Friday was the last day of school for Lakeview Elementary in Oakland, California, but some students and teachers never left. The school district there plans to close five elementary schools—including Lakeview—due to a budgetary shortfall, but defiant community members have erected a tent village in protest. One 25-year veteran teacher of Lakeview has been spending the night under the stars with nothing more than a sleeping bag. “We plan on reopening the school,” one teacher told Oakland North. “We have no plans to leave.”
The group has gained access to the school building and has set up "The People's School For Public Education" which they say will focus on social justice issues. The People's School has been joined by veterans of the Occupy Oakland protests to help with the organizing needed to have a functioning tent village. Occupy protesters have not been camping out, but the People's School credits them with logistical assistance.
"Occupy has been a tremendous help," one parent told Oakland North. "They worked really hard to feed the kids and the teachers and the family. They came and provided a PA [public address] system for us. We are very grateful that they've respected our wishes, the principles around the action, and I think that the Occupy movement has changed and their understanding how to connect with parents, and teachers and students in the community. I’m very excited to see what the future brings for all of us."
Oakland police posted an order to disperse on Monday stating "You are interfering with the good order and peaceful conduct of this school." The group though has only grown since then. "This isn't about trespassing," said one parent. "This is taxpayer money. This is a taxpayer building. It belongs to all of us, and we're doing what's right—we're doing what these buildings were intended to do, which is educate children."
The collaboration between an elementary school community and the Occupy movement is inspiring and to see parents and teachers digging in to defend their underfunded neighborhood school is heartening. We just hope it doesn't end with truncheons and riot gear.