Alamedans Hold Protest Opposing Proposed Middle School Closure

Kitty Aquino-Esparrago -- An Alameda student speaks to the crowd at Monday’s protest of the possible closure of Bay Farm Middle School.
Kitty Aquino-Esparrago -- An Alameda student speaks to the crowd at Monday’s protest of the possible closure of Bay Farm Middle School.

Alamedans Hold Protest Opposing Proposed Middle School Closure

On Monday, Jan. 23, Alameda students organized a student-led protest to voice their displeasure with Alameda Unified School District’s (AUSD) proposal to close Bay Farm Middle School. The proposal has outraged the community who say they weren’t given any prior communication or indication this was a possibility.

“There has been zero community engagement and lack of transparency,” said Martin Medeiros, a parent of a Bay Farm Middle School student. “Even school staff and administration were unaware.”

Students held signs reading, “COVID was bad enough, keep our school open,” “Diverse schools for diverse learners,” and “Do you care what we think,” among others. Several students spoke, describing how the “small school environment” has supported them.

“In elementary, I was very timid and found it difficult to stand up for myself. But when I came to Bay Farm from another part of the city, the kindness of the people helped me come out of my shell,” said Lincoln Medieros, student council president. “And now, I not only gained my self-confidence but am also the President of the middle school student council.”

Maithili Tikhe, an eighth grader and student council member, said he believes AUSD is only thinking about the financial impact and not the impact this decision would have on students.

“We are real people, real students, teachers and administrators,” said Tihke. “We’re not financial figures on a piece of paper for them to analyze. We are a school with culture and community. When we put up the sign ‘Everyone Belongs Here,’ we are not content with them just being words on the wall.”

After the protest, AUSD released a question-and-answer statement on its website regarding the potential Bay Farm Middle School closure. The statement said AUSD is considering the closure because enrollment at the school has steadily declined.

“This is reflected in both the 6th grade enrollment (which is not filling to capacity) and the number of students who leave after their 6th or 7th grade year,” the statement reads.

AUSD said this is a problem because they are dealing “insufficient funding from the state government” and they would be better served to fund schools that serve much larger numbers of students.
According to AUSD, the average class sizes at Bay Farm’s middle school program hover around 23 students per classroom as compared to other average middle school class sizes of 30 to 32 students per classroom.

“Small programs can be more expensive to run when one examines class size and overall enrollment than larger programs,” stated AUSD. “That’s because a middle school class with only 22 students and a class with 32 students require the same level of staffing and infrastructure.”

AUSD said it will save between $300,000 to $500,000 if they close Bay Farm Middle School.

“That covers the cost of the extra teachers we need to employ there due to the small class sizes at Bay Farm, as well as a part-time counselor, and extra custodial services,” stated AUSD.

AUSD would enroll students into their zoned middle school, whether it’s Lincoln, Jr. Jets, or Wood middle school. Nonetheless, students and their parents are concerned that kids who are better suited for small class sizes will not adapt well to the larger schools.

“Many of these kids can’t thrive in a large school community like Lincoln or Wood,” parent Kristen Weiss stated. “And with the trauma from remote learning still present, it is even more crucial that they stay in a small environment like Bay Farm.”

The announcement of the proposal was made at the Jan. 10 Board of Education meeting. A couple of boardmembers were surprised no one from the school was present to speak about it. Concerned parents say not only were they not notified, but that the timing of the announcement during open enrollment sabotages enrollment efforts and has presented challenges in finding other options should the board vote in favor of closure at its Feb. 14 meeting.

A growing parent group of supporters are pointing out “lack of visibility” and “inadequate communication” from the district as factors to the current low enrollment. Parents feel the district has “failed to properly communicate that Bay Farm Middle School is not just for families that live in Bay Farm, but an option for everyone.”

The district is scheduled to meet with the Bay Farm School community on Thursday, Jan. 26 to engage in discussion. The Board of Education will vote on the proposal for closure on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Kitty Aquino-Esparrago -- Middle schoolers would have to transfer to other Alameda middle schools if the closure takes place.