Oakland’s Junior Center of Art marred by fire

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One of the Bay Area’s educational gems lies dormant, not for lack of funding, but for lack of protection from fires that strike in the middle of the night.

While restoration work is still underway since last year’s suspicious fire, the Oakland Junior Center of Art and Science is, once again, reeling from another blaze.

Clive Worsley, Executive Director, explains that the first fire occurred in March 2021.

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“Started presumably with a homeless encampment that was set up, set up on the deck on that side of the building,” Worsley said. “We were unoccupied due to the pandemic shutdown, so that made it an attractive place for people to come and sleep.”

Located in Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt, the Junior Center of Art and Science has been cultivating curiosity and creative exploration through the arts, science, and nature for 68 years, especially for disadvantaged and underserved children. is worth three generations. With a staff of eleven teachers, the hands-on education center runs after-school classes as well as spring and summer camp experiences, nearly all of which are free.

Everything is on hold, again due to a fire last week.

“It looks like it’s, yet again, another homeless encampment,” Worsley said.

Homeless camps are a frequent source of fires for the Oakland Fire Department. In addition to the many unlucky people, the camps have many drug addicts and mentally disabled people who really cannot help themselves.

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“We want to move forward with compassion for people struggling with homelessness and other issues in Oakland and, at the same time, we really need to protect the children and families who come to our center for our programs.” , Worsley said.

If this center and sanctuary for teaching the children of Oakland is to continue, property protections must be built in so it is not a magnet for sleeping, camping, and fires.

“We will, we will indeed rebuild. We will be back. We will be back better than ever,” Worsley said.

And, maybe for three more generations of curious children.

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