(EDSOURCE) – A dozen or so protesters who’ve occupied a shuttered K-8 school in East Oakland must leave the property immediately due to health and safety hazards, Oakland Unified officials said this week.

“The district has serious safety concerns about what these individuals are doing on the closed campus — especially as it relates to children,” district spokesperson John Sasaki said. “We request that they find a different and safer means of expressing their disagreement (with the school closure).”

Parker K-8 school is one of a dozen or so schools Oakland Unified decided earlier this year to close due to declining enrollment. Parker’s enrollment in 2020-21 was 257 students, a drop of 30 percent since 2017-18. Most Parker students have transferred to nearby schools.

On May 25, the day Parker officially closed, a dozen or so parents, students and other protesters began occupying the campus, operating a “community school” with summer activities for children and meals. They say the district’s closure of Parker and other schools disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities, wasn’t based on sufficient public input and will hurt the district financially in the long run.

“OUSD might view Parker as an insignificant obstacle in its effort to defund Oakland schools, but Parker is now ground zero in the fight for access to quality, sustainable education in low-income neighborhoods,” said Rochelle Jenkins, a parent of two Parker students and one of the protest organizers. “We will not allow the district to intimidate us.”

The “community schol,” according to district officials, is rife with safety hazards, including a lack of background checks for adults and protective equipment for children who use skateboards or roller skates. In addition, children aren’t adequately supervised, and the buildings contain fire hazards.

“As the individuals are trespassing on OUSD property, and this ‘program’ is NOT sanctioned by OUSD, we continue to demand that they cease operating and leave the premises immediately,” Sasaki said.

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