Oakland launches new public school in effort to prevent families from fleeing

For the first time in more than a decade, Oakland Unified is opening a new public school in a bid to keep families from fleeing the district to attend charters they see as innovative or private schools they view as superior.

The Oakland School of Language, or Oakland SOL, will be the district’s first dual-immersion middle school when it opens its doors to nearly 75 sixth-grade students Monday, offering academic subjects in Spanish and English. The school will phase in seventh and eighth grades over the next two years.

The students who enrolled live all over Oakland, and many came from elementary school dual-immersion programs, said Principal Katherine Carter. Without Oakland School of Language, she said, they essentially had nowhere to go in the district if they wanted to continue with this kind of Spanish-language program, except a K-8 immersion school that offered few spaces for middle school students.

“We knew there was a really big demand there,” she said.

At the same time, Oakland didn’t need a new school. Officials acknowledge the district already has too many schools — about twice as many as districts with similar enrollment. And operating so many schools has contributed to the district’s fiscal crisis, with administrators warning earlier this year of a $30 million budget shortfall.

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