Berkeley goes back to school amid transitions

Kindergarteners line up on Wednesday to enter Ms. Maida’s classroom at Emerson Elementary School. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

School started Wednesday for more than 9,400 students in Berkeley’s 11 elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools.

At Emerson Elementary School, students lined up on the playground in their class configurations and gave a big cheer of E-M-E-R-S-O-N, Emerson!, before entering their new classrooms.

2012-13 will be a year of transition for the district. The administration moved into new headquarters on Bonar Street in mid-August, and saw the retirement of Superintendent Bill Huyett a few days later. The search for a replacement has taken longer than expected, and the school board last week appointed two interim superintendents, both current administrators, to temporarily oversee the district. They are Javetta Cleveland, Deputy Superintendent, and Neil Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.

Ms. Maida talks to her new Kindergarten students on Wednesday morning. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The teachers in the district will be seeing a 1% bonus in their October paychecks, and school board members hope to provide some other reward to staff in the future.

Students going to Berkeley High will spend their year in a construction zone as the Old Gymnasium was torn down this summer to make way for a new $30.4 million structure with 15 classrooms, a soft gym and a 4,000 square foot fitness center. Students should also see the completion of a new $9 million football stadium with 2,200 bleacher seats, a press box, athletic offices and locker rooms.

Construction has also started on baseball, softball, and soccer fields at the new Derby Field Project at Martin Luther King and Derby Street, all part of  $48 million in enhancements to Berkeley High alone.

The district will soon spend another $7.7 million to remodel Jefferson Elementary School. It will also build a new $2 million board room for meetings at the West Campus. In total, the school district is spending about $85 million for new facilities. The funds are coming from Measures A, AA, and I, passed by Berkeley voters.

The classroom settles in. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Related:
Two interim superintendents to take reins at BUSD [08.16.12]
Berkeley school district settles into new headquarters [08.14.12]
Historic Berkeley High old gym makes way for the new [06.28.12]
What does Berkeley want from its new schools head? [03.14.12]
Berkeley schools superintendent Bill Huyett to retire [12.06.11]

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  • Eric Sloan

    My son started kindergarten today at John Muir and it is going great. My compliments to the teachers, principal, and school district for making sure that we knew what was expected, how to ease the transition, and the many great opportunities the school (including before and after school!) offers.  Thanks! 

  • EBGuy

    Take two.  Men in “bunny suits” were at the demolition site to greet incoming high schoolers.  At least the earth moving equip was idling when I went by and not kicking up dust.   According to school board minutes, demolition is running slightly behind schedule as asbestos was revealed between two concrete slabs and requires additional abatement.

  • Anonymous

    It’s misleading to call the work at Jefferson “remodeling” since it is two additions with the option of some “modernization” at BUSD’s vague discretion.

  • Gus

    Tim, you’re really starting to sound like a nutcase on this. 

  • Julie

    I’m so glad that they are getting the new classrooms that Berkeley High so desperately needed. That was a lot of money from measure I to pay for these “classrooms”, and with that they a new $30.4 million structure with 15 classrooms, a soft gym and a 4,000 square foot fitness center. Students should also see the completion of a new $9 million football stadium with 2,200 bleacher seats, a press box, athletic offices and locker rooms.

    Construction has also started on baseball, softball, and soccer fields at the new Derby Field Project at Martin Luther King and Derby Street, all part of  $48 million in enhancements to Berkeley High alone. Sounds like more athletics then classroom space. I don’t think measure I had much accountability. Ah well……I hope most of Berkeley High students are into competitive sports.. I think when I was figuring this out a while ago, there would still be 30 students to a classroom. And am I correct, that there are no funds to keep the school newspaper going?

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    Berkeley High found a way to allocate two periods to the Jacket, the student-run newspaper, so they are going to be fine. See our story: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2012/08/27/demands-of-berkeley-high-jacket-are-met/

  • Julie

    Thanks for clearing that up. However, they are spending more money on athletics then anything else. Even when they had a classroom shortage, they built their own swimming pool for water polo.

  • sports-fan

    Athletics is important, especially since there are very few PE classes, now.  At least a third of the students at BHS participate in one of the 29 varsity sports. As it is, BHS does not offer adequate support for the many individual teams. Parents fund raise and pay for the entire freshman sports program. We’re a big district and need to fund football and baseball just as much as the jazz band and theater. All these activities give some of our kids a reason to go to school. Some kids even get scholarships because of their participation in sports. The Berkeley community does not rally around their sports teams as some communities do, but at least the district is doing something to support the kids who enjoy athletics. And with all the talk about healthy lifestyles, adolescent obesity, etc., if we’re not going to fund PE teachers, we should at least fund the sports teams. A small stipend for a coach is WAY less than paying a teacher’s salary and benefits. So we’ve taken a path that costs much less. Is that right? Maybe not, but please, don’t go on and on about how the district only cares about sports. That is simply just not true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.chekalbain Mark Chekal-Bain

    How fun to see my son’s former Kindergarten teacher in Berkeleyside.  Congratulations to the staff and teachers for another successful start to the new school year!

  • Julie

    I agree that athletics are crucial to kids. But to all kids. The many disabled kids in Berkeley, get a such a tiny portion of this which makes me sad. I hope someday we can offer a healthy life style, such as the ones you mentioned, to all children.