King Middle School to get new field, all-weather track


The new track at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School is set to be finished by September. Photo: Camille Baptista

Those who have tried to use the track or field at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School recently know that bulldozers have taken over the area, gates are locked, and temporary fencing is blocking the pathway coming from the school.

Shortly after King students left for summer, renovations began to replace irrigation and grass in the field and to make the track into an all-weather track. The plan laid out by the Berkeley Unified School Board in 2011 only involved improvements to the field, which has become uneven over time, but community members wanted to add track resurfacing to the project.

“There was a big push to get an all-weather track, and that’s what the top priority was,” said Lew Jones, maintenance director for the Berkeley Unified School District.

Currently, the King Middle School track, which has a street entrance on Hopkins Street between Josephine Street and Colusa Avenue, is shorter than a standard regulation track. However the construction project does not include plans to lengthen it, or to change its shape. Despite much debate in past years between community members and the city about making the track full-length, Jones said this was not a priority for those who spoke up in favor of an all-weather track.

Funding for the project is coming chiefly from Measure I, with a small portion coming from Measure A. Construction will cost a total of $817,000, but the total project cost — which includes project managers, testing, and other factors — is not yet available.

Jones said the old irrigation system at the King field is something the district has long wanted to fix.

“We knew it had been a problem for a number of years,” he said. When the School Board laid out a ten-year plan of district construction projects in 2011, the King field project was on the list.

Jones said the construction has gone smoothly so far, and the all-weather track should be in place and ready for use by the time students return in the fall. The field will be done in November or December.

Camille Baptista is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. She studies creative writing and human rights at Barnard in New York City, where she writes for the Columbia Daily Spectator.

Would you like to have latest Berkeley news in your email inbox once a day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • DW

    How long is the track?

  • guest

    Great project. MLK will have a brand new track. Their pool was recently renovated. Their new cafeteria looks great. Their garden project is fully funded. When will we invest in Willard Middle School where the pool was drained and filled with dirt, and all funding for the garden program was cancelled?

  • Anonymous

    Why are we putting sports at a higher priority than reading, math, working bathrooms, etc?

  • Kemosabe

    I’m not sure why you think it’s a higher priority, but I will tell you that it is a very necessary project. BUSD middle school students have PE for one out of six periods each day. Physical conditioning is emphasized and running is one of the primary ways it is achieved The poor condition of the old dirt track presented a real hazard, resulting in numerous injuries and respiratory “events” from the dust.

    Yes, the track is also for sports.The after school cross country and track teams are incredibly popular at King and serve many students. The track will serve for home meets for both Willard and King. You’ll also see many community members using the track for exercise.

    Sports are so far down on the priority list within BUSD that it’s laughable and uninformed to suggest they are a higher priority than math or working bathrooms. (Is there any school where bathrooms aren’t working?)

  • guest

    Berkeleyside recently ran a story detailing years of problems with bathrooms at Emerson.

  • EBGuy

    The garden project at King is privately funded by the Edible Schoolyard. The garden program at Willard was funded by federal SNAP-Ed program (through the state). SNAP-Ed funds are now being directed to county health departments through the Healthy California initiative.
    Any pool people (Robert Collier or others) want to comment on whether we’ll see a new pools measure soon (without the warm water portion) ?

  • jjohannson

    This comment is illogical. School districts can walk and chew gum at the same time. If you read the article, you see the money for capital improvements comes from a different measure than academic enhancement.

  • Camille Baptista

    Hi, thanks for your comment. I’ve followed up with BUSD with that question and will let you know what I learn.

  • BUSD parent

    And yet it comes from the same Measure that is supposed to fund the building of permanent classrooms– and still hundreds of BUSD elementary students are currently housed in 40 year-old portables, with no permanent structures planned. How spending is/was prioritized is a legitimate question.

  • EBGuy

    How many students in your child’s classroom are from out of district (not legal transfers)? Until the district implements common sense measures like requiring proof of home ownership or a lease agreement, Berkeley children will continue to learn in portables and interior (no windows to the outside) classrooms. The new superintendent will be holding several open forums in the fall; make your opinions known.
    PS – the main Washington Elementary School building is looking quite spiffy with the new paint job. Wish I could say the same for the portables.

  • JLee

    The track is about 17 feet too short to be a legal track that MLK could host meets with. The school got a ridiculous bid to extend it even though the regulations are pretty lax about the shape. One curve can be fatter than the other etc. Sad that it gets built WRONG twice- a typical lazy decision by BUSD. There will be a blue stripe that indicates the 400 meter lap mark.

  • angry guest

    berkeley students end up in portables so that administrators can have new offices and kids on sports teams can have new facilities

    this is not what i voted for

  • Julie

    Never, I hope. The people from Willard want their pool back and support the warm water pool. The warm water people support Willard. Willard is only open less than three months a year. Berkeley, besides the Y, which many cannot afford is our only indoor pool. Shameful. More then 100’s of seniors, disabled, children, pregnant moms, families, and more were displaced when the warm water pool was demolished. You can thank our mayor, and school district for that one. And you can thank Scott Ferris and those he supposedly manages ( who just got a raise–despite objections) who managed the pool so poorly it wasn’t making the money it should have been making.
    Also under the new law, these fields have to make sure that disabled people can use them. I doubt they will do this.

  • Robert_Collier

    I was a member of the project’s advisory committee, and Lew Jones is correct in saying that the school community and neighbors considered the length of the track to be a secondary priority. Because of budget constraints, we essentially had the choice of recommending an all-weather track or a corrected length, but there wasn’t enough money for both. Having an all-weather track as well as a properly graded, irrigated and drained sports field will be a boon for students and the neighborhood for many years to come.

  • Dan Alpert

    Wasn’t the track redone just a few years ago? Why did we do it then and do it again now? That seems like a waste. And what is the meaning of “all-weather”? Uh, did anyone notice that Berkeley doesn’t get all weather?

  • Robert_Collier

    The track was redone in 2007 with the same clay surface as previously, but the contractor completely botched the job — drainage was virtually nonexistent and the clay material turned into a slippery swamp whenever it rained. The project now will install a rubberized, all-weather surface that will need little maintenance. It’s more expensive, but it’s a good investment. Community members who previously were vocally opposed to an all-weather track spoke in favor of the idea at our community meetings. There was no opposition.

  • Dan Alpert

    So it sounds like I am right, we wasted a bunch of money in 2007 on a project that didn’t serve our needs. I wish they would have done it right the first time or if the contractor screwed up, had recourse in the contract to force them to correct.

  • guest

    And its a lot better to run on.

  • mark lemkin

    What a ridiculous waste of money. My kids are in an elementary school so overcrowded they have only 15 minutes for lunch. And BUSD is spending upwards of a million dollars replacing a perfectly serviceable track and field?

    Here is the text of Measure I, which is funding this project, I see nothing about sports facilities:

    … to construct new classrooms for growth, complete seismic upgrades, construct science labs, upgrade computers and education technology, renovate playgrounds, replace restrooms, cafeterias, roofs, heating and fire safety systems, remove hazardous materials, improve energy efficiency.

    The school board is inadequately supervising Measure I spending.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    That’s the abbreviation. The full text has this, among many, many other projects so broadly construed that they could justify a bridge to Hawaii :

    Renovate, replace or construct physical education playgrounds and athletic fields and associated facilities, including all-weather tracks, natural or artificial turf fields, courts and stadiums, lighting, bleachers and restrooms. Provide storage physical education, athletic and grounds maintenance equipment.



  • PragmaticProgressive


  • Margot Smith

    I hope whomever is doing the grass does a better job than they did on Live Oak Park.
    that is a disaster, lumpy and graded wrong. Evidently no one in the city oversaw the work.
    Here’s wishing for a better job on the High School and king.

  • The_Sharkey

    I think you meant to say that warm pool advocates tried to hold Willard hostage as part of their negotiating, and ended up getting both pools closed instead.

  • The_Sharkey

    That’s the BUSD motto: “No accountability.”

  • guest

    Willard Pool could and should be re-opened now even without a new bond measure. This pool was functional when it was drained. Remove the dirt, fill the pool with water and allow the kids and public to swim while we wait for a Willard Pool only bond measure that will be a fraction of the cost of the previous proposals.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I think they’re hoping we’ll forget that they’ve made two runs at this already so that they can make yet a third.

    Meanwhile, I wonder if the warm pool people are any further along in seeking private fundraising support for their goals? After all, the most zealous among them were assuring us that death was on the line without a warm pool and since they didn’t get one, I’d expect that the drive for private alternatives would have begun in earnest.

  • EBGuy

    That runs counter to normal procedures here:
    1. Remove line item from general fund budget.
    2. Sponsor measure that makes it a permanent parcel tax on the homeowner’s property tax bill.

  • guest

    I assume that “all weather” means artificial turf.

  • Julie

    Nope, that is not what I meant to say at all. In fact closing Willard was the Mayor Bates’ decision. I used to swim at Willard.. on warm nights, when the Oakland Temascal pool was closed. When my housemate and I were trying to pass the first ill-fated bond in 2010, I would ask the Willard Swimmers ( thinking that they were from Berkeley) to vote for the pools bond– but the people who used the pool at that time were almost all from Oakland.
    We know Worthington and Wozniack, an unlikely pair had an idea to keep Willard open. The worst part of it was filling the pools with dirt, one wouldn’t believe how much that costs ( I found the record of the cost) , and it ruins a pool. I’ll let you do the research on that one. Also to remove the dirt was, according to the general manager at the time, was supposed to come out to the general fund when there was enough money– not to have the taxpayers pay for it. Now, do your homework Sharkey, while you are swimming around in those murky water of yours. Please.

  • Julie

    I wrote a long answer to you, but it seems it was deleted. Anyone?

  • Julie

    Since my long answer was deleted here are some facts.

    Yes, the warm pool people tried to do fundraising and grant writing. BUT we have no land.. so one can’t do a grant till the city gives us land. The people who for at least 15 years are ill or have died, and just can’t work on this anymore. I know my housemate, when the pool closed is too ill, and discouraged since her close warm pool friend died. It would be great if Berkley could come together to help this effort, but I doubt this will happen..

    The Warm Pool was going to be named after Fred Lupke, who was killed in his wheel chair while posting signs to get the community to help Willard keep going just one more year. He was working on both pools.

    The warm pool people asked when Bates was going to close Willard if there was any money left in the warm pool funds. No, because the city decided to fund the study done by the co. ( which ended up in the “round file”) with the last bit of remaining funds the warm pool had, to the tune of $$550.00.

    Dona Spring had asked before she died, not to do this wasteful activity. “Been there, done that, we want a warm water pool”. The mayor PROMISED in either 2008 or before that we would have no gaps. But the school board wanted more classroom space ( measure I, I believe ) which provides less classrooms but more sports facilities for the able bodied.

    Berkeley doesn’t deserve a warm water pool. I hope that a city near by will have the humanity to look towards the future and realize what a boon this will be for their city and begin to build one. Perhaps Emeryville?

    I need to take care of my housemate, and the only reason post is my own anger at how ill she’s become since the closing of the pool.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Sorry about the personal difficulties you and yours have had around this. Of course everyone has health issues among their family and friends and not too many of us expect city government to provide for those.

    You wrote:

    Yes, the warm pool people tried to do fundraising and grant writing. BUT we have no land.. so one can’t do a grant till the city gives us land.

    Again, you’re asking for the city to GIVE you something of value. I’m asking why you and the other warm pool people don’t raise the money to make this happen all on your own, with no handouts from the city which, as you point out, is driven by a cast of characters of questionable competence and/or motives.

    When my father (of blessed memory) tried aquatic therapy, he went to a facility in the state where he lived that was affiliated with a nursing home and that had been funded by a major gift from an important business leader. Given that you can’t get what you want from the public coffers, I don’t understand why you’re not working night and day to find a private source. It can happen — I’ve seen it for myself!

  • Julie

    I work taking care of a loved one who is ill, and work full time. All pools WERE given by the school board to the city of Berkeley, and used by the schools when one had to learn how to swim to graduate. When that requirement ceased, Berkeley was responsible for the pools– King, whose community has more money has a all year pool. Willard whose area is in a poorer section…well I think you can figure it out. The warm pool was used by the school district for swimming lessons, disabled children, and those who attended the high school a had a disability which required warm water; I’ve spoken to a teacher who worked there with at that time with the students who relied on the warm pool.

    If you’ve seen it for yourself and have researched this subject.. maybe you’d like to led a hand. You give your father as an example and I am glad he was able to find something that suited his needs. But what about our children?????? Do we just throw them away because they can’t get the warm water they need to exist ( which we are doing now).

    Shelter, food, education, and health care are not a “gift” –they are our basic human rights.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Honestly, the impact for my dad was minimal. So, no, I’m not going to join or support your campaign. In fact, as long as it is something you propose to do with public funds, I will oppose it.

    I also question your persistent hyperbole about people “needing warm water to exist.” We don’t have it and yet they exist. If they did really really need it, they’d move where it is available or they’d find other ways to exist.

    The Ed Roberts people found a way to secure loans to build their project. Other warm pools have been built with private foundation money. Berkeley voters have said “no” to your demand for bond funds on multiple occasions and it has cost the entire community the use of Willard pool. Find another way to fund your project or relocate to another community that shares your definition of what constitutes “basic” human rights.

  • MrFitzz

    It’s unfortunate that they didn’t build a regulation track when they had the opportunity, but they could still host track meets. The largest and oldest track meet in the United States is Penn Relays and the track there at Franklin Field is short… You have to run in lane four to cover a full 400m per lap.

  • tobiasdiomead

    Anyone know what the track length is? I kind of expected to learn that from the reporter, in a story about the track, especially considering that she specifically mentions some debate over lengthening it to “full length.”