BUSD addresses concerns over BHS campus construction

Berkeley High's old gym is slated for replacement with Measure I funds. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Earlier this month, the Berkeley Unified School District abruptly closed Berkeley High School’s Old Gym citing the unsafe condition of the building. The lack of warning meant that several of the school’s sports teams, including its football squad, had no place to store equipment. The rowing team abruptly lost access to its ergometers, the football team lost its weights room, and the wrestling team lost its practice facilities.

Superintendent Bill Huyett apologized for the disruption, but staff, students, and parents have expressed concern over both the handling of that case and a variety of issues related to construction at Berkeley High. BUSD last week responded to these issues in an email to the school community:

A plan for communication regarding construction projects at Berkeley High

• Weekly Wednesday communications sent via e-tree with updates directly from both the Berkeley High site and the District Facilities Department.

• Creation of a Site Construction Committee comprised of staff, parents, and students at Berkeley High School that will meet monthly and will be an avenue to improve communication.

Storage solutions

• BHS has four containers on site now and will add another one to provide athletic storage needs. Football athletes can store their athletic items overnight in the designated storage area.

Football Tutorial Spaces

• In collaboration with the BHS after-school tutorial program, coach-supervised football tutorials have been arranged on select days in the Portables and in the D Building.

Weight Room for After-School Athletic Use

•  BHS planned to create a temporary weightroom in the Athletic Office/BOC after the stadium building was completed and before the new training facility in the new classroom building was completed.  Due to safety concerns, we needed to vacate the Old Gym before the stadium building was finished and we have been actively looking at alternatives.

• YMCA will provide a weight room for athletic use at the teen-center located at MLK and Addison. Set up should begin at the end of this week. We will provide an immediate update to the coaching staff regarding its availability.  We will also continue to explore other options for athletic weight training.

BHS Home Football Games

• The BHS Homecoming football game versus Pinole Valley High School on Friday 10/28, originally scheduled for Laney College, will take place at BHS. Temporary bleachers will be brought in and stationed on the visitor’s side to accomodate the crowd

• The final home football game of the regular season against Richmond on Friday, 11/4 will take place at BHS.

South of Bancroft Construction Report:

• Phase I — Based upon the information we have currently, the stadium building, which includes six team locker-rooms, a training room, and an athletic office, should be completed before the opening of the next school year.

• Phase II — Demolition of the Old Gym will not begin before Jan 1.  We will provide timelines for in future reports.

Community Theatre Renovation:

• Construction to provide ADA accessibility in the BCT is almost complete.  A plan has been made to allow for the BHS Spirit Rally to take place in the BCT on 10/28 and final work will take place after that event.

Superintendent Huyett apologizes to BHS football team [10.13.11]

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  • BHSFail

    Huyette’s standard to response to criticism for being an ineffectual manager:  create an ad-hoc committee of staff, students, and teachers to study the problem..

  • laura

    BUSD hired a PR consulting firm last spring to study and develop a communication plan, what did that cost? why didn’t they follow their NEW and improved communication plan?
    Is it true that  Huyett  takes Fridays off?

  • Completely Serious

    If BUSD would verify residence of all students, enrollment at BHS would drop by 30-50% and there would be no need for extra space.

  • I think your seeming belief that students have to live in Berkeley city limits to attend BHS is a mistaken belief. Students that live outside the district can enroll at BHS. The law would have to change to do what you regularly suggest here on Berkeleyside, at least I think you are the commenter who repeatedly harps on this mistake.  It is perfectly legal for nonresidents to send students to BHS, so long as it is done legally.

  • Completely Serious


    It’s someone else who “harps.”  I just comment.  In any case, your point is well taken and I left out the important concept, “so long as it is done legally.”  My complaint is the mass of students at every level who are enrolled illegally, usually by using a Berkeley address of a fellow traveler and fraudulent documentation.

  • Hi Tizzielish,

    You have mistaken Completely Serious for me, I think, though I’m a pianist rather than a harpist.

    You are absolutely right — and I have never disagreed with this fact:  legal transfers are a welcome reality at BUSD as at all California schools.

    Having said that, you must also acknowledge that they are a tiny percentage of the total population of out-of-district students.  There’s an average of 28 legal transfers per grade in BUSD.  That is a drop in the bucket when one third of the high school population is from out of district.  

    Don’t (want to) believe me?  Here’s the Chronicle back in 2006: “the number of illegal transfers is far higher than those who receive official transfers.” [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/08/27/EDGKKKQ5PV1.DTL&ao=3]

    Read my summary of a recent exchange with BUSD DIrectory Josh Daniels, where he confirms that fraudulent enrollment is high enough to warrant deeper analysis. [http://berkeley.accountableschools.com/blog/2011/10/21/an-exchange-with-busd-director-josh-daniels/]

    And here’s BHS student Ben Johnson, writing for the Jacket: “The problem lies in the fact that seemingly everyone wants to come to Berkeley High, and most manage to do it. One must enroll in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in order to enroll at BHS, but this is far too easy to do. Students who don’t live in Berkeley at the time simply provide an alternate address that is in Berkeley, and are therefore “in” the district.
    Not fair. Finding a better way to track down non–Berkeley residents and rejecting their enrollment would be fair. It’s not okay for kids to be sitting in a classroom with as many as 35 students because people who aren’t from Berkeley are allowed in. I asked twenty students what one of the biggest problems at BHS is, and they all gave the same answer: overpopulation.” [http://www.bhsjacket.com/opinion/berkeley_high_should_be_berkeley_students]

  • Separate reply to make a point that shouldn’t get lost re: legal transfers.

    How many legal transfers are negotiated “behavioral trades” ?  BUSD officials have acknowledged that behavioral trades do take place, but we don’t have disclosure on the frequency.

    A behavioral trade is when one district trades behavioral problems with another, as an alternative to expulsion.  So our problem “goes away,” but we get another problem in exchange.  That’s “behavior management as a zero sum game.”  Keeps the expulsion count down, but does it actually improve anything?

    Lastly, if you are a legal transfer who played by the rules, you go to the back of the line for spots at coveted schools, AFTER the cheaters who convinced someone to help them fake a few utility bills.  That sucks.

  • Heather W.

    The way the closure was made known to the students was really abhorrent. The gym has — for years now — been known to be a hazard due to its lack of seismic retrofitting and age. Why Huyett arbitrarily decided so suddenly and without prior notice to close it suggests there was something underlying the closure. They could have closed it this summer, so that students wouldn’t have been suddenly locked out. It could have been closed last year, but it wasn’t. What was so critical at that moment that Huyett suddenly closed it without  moment’s notice? There’s something else going on here….

  • Heather W.

    I know this post has gone totally off topic, but…. interdistrict transfers, if done legally, are not a problem IMO. Albany for example limits the number of transfers so as not to max out the current institution(s) capacity, and they do home visits to establish residency (probably only when required). Berkeley’s legal transfer breakdown which were provided to Berkeley Patch via hand written note on ledger paper suggests two things; that BUSD has a rational number of legal transfer, and, that no one is really paying regular attention to it OR how many illegally enrolled students they may have. I feel that new, incoming students must be required to provide more stringent proof of residence, lacking that, the district should do home visits to verify residency. Current illegal students in good standing should be allowed to continue attendance until graduation. 

  • Bruce Love

    Basically, you’re reinforcing your speculation about the scope of the problem by citing speculation about the scope of the problem (including your own).  That’s a bit circular.

    Devise your “bed check” methodology.  Lay out your legal interpretation.   Get community consensus and district agreement that these are legally sound.   Take note of substantial minority interpretations to the contrary.   Randomly select 500 students (by a rigorously random process).  Conduct the checks.  Measure.  Report as reflected by the consensus and minority interpretations.

    Is there a big problem or no?  It’s hard to tell.  But your advocacy for the “there is” side sets off a lot of my BS detectors.

  • I would probably change “until graduation” to something more nuanced.  A kindergarten student who stays with us until HS graduation costs $144,000, of which $48,000 is BSEP, Measure BB, and fundraising dollars for which we could find other uses.

    Albany is doing ANNUAL re-verification of residency.  Karen Hemphill and the other board members promised (but did not deliver) to support re-registration at the start of the 9th grade, back in 2006 when Measure A was on the line.  

    9th grade is certainly the most obvious place to look, since we add 40% more students to that grade every year.  But residents whose kids have been bumped from specific elementary and middle schools will almost certainly want to see rightsizing there too.

  • Heather W.

    Willing to concede that an annual verification of residency would work, but probably only if that were for the “questionable” enrollments. Those that show lease/rental agreements or mortgage statements should be allowed an extension, like 5 years. 

  • Heather, the danger of having different criteria in place is that it skews things in favor of specific scams that may also be skewed toward people with more resources.  For example, relying on a rental agreement for a 5 year deal — enough for all of high school — is effectively a giveaway.  All I have to do is rent a crappy unit for a year and I’m in for all of high school.  If I shop it right, I could do that for less than the cost of one year at a private high school, but be in at BHS for all four. Showing title to a home is a little better, except that you still need to verify that the owner isn’t double dipping (by renting out the house and yet still enrolling in BUSD).  I know one person who does that.

    I don’t mean to quibble with you and I certainly agree with you on the general approach.  Some kind of amnesty program is going to be needed.

  • libraterian

    Fumble after fumble with plans and signed contracts in hand.
    Imagine what will happen with the unspecified projects/funds approved in props “H” and “I”? Does the School Board have a coherent and transparent process for committing these funds? Or will the courts require they produce one? 

  • libraterian

    Hacking up Huyett is precisely what the School Board, unions, and the other self serving, agenda toting, education advocates/consultants had hoped for. Why? Because superintendent bashing obscures the root causes; Personal political prejudices setting educational policy. Entrenched, grossly incompetent sloths masquerading as our loyal staff.

    But things are slowly shifting. Four years ago a website demanding an accounting of fraudulent registrants would have generated a fire storm of self righteous indignation. Now, people are listening. Four years from now, annual verification may well be standard policy in BUSD. 

    Dead in the water housing prices and chronic economic malaise will dry up referendum funding, maybe repeal some. We’ll see.