Last week’s sudden closure of Berkeley High’s Old Gym puzzled and angered many student athletes and their supporters. Last night, at the Berkeley Unified School District board meeting, Superintendent Bill Huyett apologized for the disruption, but said that his decision was forced by the unsafe condition of the building.
“We do recognize the problems that have been put upon the [football] team,” Huyett said. “I don’t think anybody wanted this to happen, especially in this way. It happened very clearly out of a lack of information on my part.”
Huyett said that he had spoken to the BHS football team and coaches after practice on Wednesday to apologize.
The superintendent was responding at the school board meeting to Richard Boyden, a parent of a current member of the Yellowjackets.
“There has been a real facilities meltdown,” Boyden said. In addition to the closure of the Old Gym, where the team stored equipment and had a weights room, the bleachers at Berkeley High were closed several weeks ago. As a result, the team lacks training facilities and is forced to play its home games on the road.
“There’s been an amazing amount of disruption,” Boyden said. “Going forward, we’d like to see some accountability for all this. We don’t want to point fingers and assign blame. We’re all very, very angry. But the way to heal this situation is for you, the district, to figure out why wasn’t there a communications plan in place. Why didn’t you figure out that this might be a contingency and plan for it? These kids are very tough and they can take a lot of adversity. What they can’t take is the surprises and turmoil.”
“We could have communicated much better than we did,” Huyett admitted. “I just wasn’t aware of the use by the football team. But we have to ensure we have the highest level of safety for the students.”
Huyett said several container units had been brought in today, to allow for some storage of equipment. For the last week, football players have been taking their equipment home after practice. Despite talk in the last week that other teams affected by the closure — particularly wrestling and rowing — would rally at the board meeting, football was the only one represented last night.
“The board and I should have dealt with this long ago,” Huyett said.