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A School Divided 

The self-segregation of a Marin County school district

click to enlarge SPLITTING UP Currently planned is a move of a public school to Marin City while retaining a charter school in Sausalito.
  • SPLITTING UP Currently planned is a move of a public school to Marin City while retaining a charter school in Sausalito.

A proposal to consolidate two schools raises issues of racial segregation and equity with deep roots in southern Marin.

The Sausalito Marin City School District currently oversees three campuses. Two—Bayside Elementary and the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy middle school—are traditional public schools, while the K–8 Willow Creek Academy is a charter school. The district's proposal would move Bayside students from their current Sausalito campus, which they share with Willow Creek, to the Marin City MLK campus, creating two schools district-wide—a traditional K–8 in Marin City and a K–8 charter in Sausalito. Reasons for the move include dollars currently lost on doubled-up administrative fees—up to $250,000 a year—and educational opportunities that could come with a larger student body, among others.

But the landscape of the move concerned community members at a meeting on Jan. 15. As anyone familiar with the history of southern Marin knows, Sausalito and Marin City share a zip code and little else. While Sausalito touts a median household income of $110,000, Marin City's median is just over $46,000. And while the hillside city overlooking the Bay is roughly 93 percent white—ACS data through 2011 reports that there is one black person living in all of Sausalito—the unincorporated county pocket tucked away behind it houses the largest concentration of African Americans in Marin County, at roughly 45 percent. To consolidate the two traditional public campuses, both with a black student majority, in Marin City while keeping the charter with a black minority on its current hillside campus in Sausalito would be a move that, some say, looks an awful lot like segregation.

Sausalito resident Marie Simmons invoked a Jim Crow comparison, saying the move would create an educational system that was "separate but equal."

"How do you prepare [the kids] for an increasingly diverse society if you segregate them?" she asked the district board. "Studies have shown that children do better if you integrate them."

Another community member expressed her fears in starker terms.

"From what I've seen, it looks like all the board wants to do is bring the kids down to Marin City and dump them," she said.

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