renovations underway at Oxford Elementary School

Some relief from state budget cuts

Berkeley Unified School District is no longer facing budget cuts in the range of $7-$8M, due to changes in the state legislature, but it will still have to weather $3-$4M in reductions for the upcoming school year due to a 0% cost of living adjustment provided by the state, and early estimates of increased spending due to COVID-19.

This figure is in addition to a $1.3M cut previously approved by BUSD. Outgoing President Judy Appel called the situation “not-so-dire,” but said the district will still have to make difficult choices. Cuts will be within the “tier one” category, which includes selective hiring freezes, furloughs for some administrators, staff overtime, the Gardening and Cooking program, substitute teaching and nutrition services.

“Level funding is not the same as level service, and it does mean that we’re still experiencing contractions,” Superintendent Brent Stephens told Berkeleyside. “However it is far better than the roughly seven and a half million dollar budget reduction that we thought we were facing only a month ago.”

BUSD will not be laying off classified staff in nutrition, transportation or custodial work, and there will be no summer layoffs of classified employees. In its budget plans for next year, BUSD also included $277,000 in funding for its Resolution for Black Lives Matter and the related COVID-19 equity fund.

Resolution to re-envision police presence in schools

Board members unanimously passed a resolution during their July 1 meeting to “Re-Envision Police-Free Schools.” Berkeley High currently has one school resource offer from Berkeley police, funded by the city, who also works at Berkeley Technology Academy.

The resolution was introduced by board members Julie Sinai and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, and will set in motion community discussions over the presence of Berkeley police at Berkeley schools, and potential alternatives to policing, including restorative practices, cultural competency training, violence prevention and behavioral health and enrichment activities.

“While we have a clear intent that we want to move toward police-free schools, we really feel like it would be a shortcoming not to engage the students of our schools, particularly our Black and brown students, the teachers the staff and the families,” Sinai said. “Know that it’s really the first step for us re-envisioning and reimagining the police presence but also securing public safety on our campus.”

Because BUSD does not directly pay for the school resource officer, they will be working with the city to follow through with any changes.

Oxford School renovations ongoing

Renovations at Oxford Elementary School’s new West Campus are ongoing during the pandemic and expected to be complete by the start of the next school year in August. The move from 1130 Oxford St. to 2020 Bonar St., the former home of REALM Charter School, was initiated last fall due to safety concerns that the schoolhouse could move up to 20 feet if struck by a serious earthquake.

Administrators went on a tour in late June to check out the renovations, which include a large new library, sinks, carpeting and paint. It will eventually also have an artificial turf field, two playgrounds, an outdoor learning area, a “peace path” and “enchanted forest,” both outdoors, a garden area and a sundial.

Fire causes minor damage to BUSD district office  

the front of the BUSD building with firetrucks nearby
Berkeley firefighters put out a blaze that started in a portable toilet outside the BUSD building at 2020 Bonar St. on July 3, 2020. Photo: Ethan Lasiewski

A fire at the BUSD district office on Friday, June 3 damaged the building’s exterior and has temporarily closed down the admissions office, according to public information officer Trish McDermott.

Firefighters responded to the building, at 2020 Bonar St., at 5:31 p.m. and found a small blaze in a Port-O-Potty bathroom against the west side wall of the office, Berkeley fire spokesman Keith May said. Heat from the fire broke a window on the first floor and caused minor heat and smoke damage to the interior and part of the hallway.

No one was injured and the building was turned over to BUSD maintenance personnel.

Meals available through summer

image of potatoes, carrots and peas in produce bins
BUSD has harvested 350 pounds of produce so far from BUSD gardens to make meals for students during COVID-19. Photo: BUSD

Grab-and-go meals are available to students aged 18 or younger throughout the summer. Pickups are available at six distribution sites — Washington and Rosa Parks elementary schools, Longfellow, Willard and Martin Luther King Jr. middle schools, and Berkeley High — on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. More information is available online.

The program, which will run through Aug. 14, has served 70,000 meals since school facilities closed due to the pandemic, according to BUSD.

The BUSD Gardening and Cooking Program is also operating a food pantry with Berkeley Food Network on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 2:30-4 p.m. at Berkeley Technology Academy, 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The next food pantry is on July 14, and community members can pick up fresh produce, protein, eggs, frozen prepared foods and packaged goods. All visitors are asked to wear a mask during pickups.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct authors of the resolution to re-envision police-free schools. It previously said the author was board member Ka’Dijah Brown, who amended the document.

Supriya Yelimeli

Supriya Yelimeli joined the Berkeleyside staff as a general assignment reporter in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and has written for...

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  1. > Can you all please stop Mask-shaming people?
    No. Because I’m 70 and (temporarily) immune-suppressed, so if I catch it I’ll very likely die. And maskless young whippersnappers walk right past me all the time. It’s not a political statement with Berkeley’s rather leftist young folks, just obstinate selfishness and entitlement.

  2. Same thing. Then it is a Mask and Distance shaming.

    The numbers are bad because our local (state and county) government does not give people help, perspective, hope, funding, etc to do the right thing.
    Some half sensible rules are issued without stick or carrot. People who party together have no consequences while we shut down schools and hurt people following guidelines while we know kids don’t spread it.

  3. The problem is that before the pandemic the construction hadn’t begun in earnest so there was still time to reverse course and put Oxford in the purpose-built gradeschool at San Pablo and Virginia and move the Adult School back to its original location at West Campus. We could have saved millions and had a much larger space that would have been far better for the students but for some reason BUSD will not consider moving the Adult School and will not explain why.

  4. Reading skills. If anything, the post you were replying to was making a point about distance (they were actually wearing masks as the acute eye notices). /hint

  5. Can you all please stop Mask-shaming people?
    This is getting ridiculous. Yes Masks are good etc..and yes I wear it when I am around people. But also use common sense and don’t wear it if noone is around or more than 30 feet away.

    These self appointed Mask-police is getting ridiculous and leads to the opposite effects of people not wearing them because it has become a political statement.

  6. Because the pandemic will be over at some point in time. Not today and not tomorrow but it will pass.

  7. This was to good to pass up (see 56:10). It is important, that we are no longer teaching our children a sanitized version of American history, but it is also important not to over correct. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners, but they were also political visionaries who helped give birth to what became the most inclusive form of governance in world history… America is an aspirational nation; our ideals have always exceeded reality. The American Dream is a promise of freedom and hope, but it is also a call on all of us to make true the myths we tell ourselves about what America has always been.
    -Amy Chua, Prof. of Law, Yale Law School

  8. I really hope students are eating the produce because the reports from around the state are really bad. Web search “The Covid 15”.

    It remains the case that we permit people to spend EBT on Oreos, Twinkies, cupcakes and all manner of “snack chips” all packaged in the worst unrecycleable plastic. Ominously there is recently-published research on the corrosive effects of combining diet soda and french fries (and those chip things are essentially french fries in a bag).

  9. I’m still incredibly annoyed that BUSD didn’t consider moving the Adult School and turning that campus back into a grade school instead of renovating the West Campus.

    The cost to transition the Adult School back to its original purpose would have been much lower than what’s being spent on this renovation and the larger campus size would have made it easier for students and teachers to socially distance.

  10. Why is BUSD still continuing full steam ahead with the construction at West Campus in the midst of a pandemic? Have the design plans been modified at all to allow more social distancing? Has any consideration been given to turning the Adult School campus back into a grade school since it is so much larger than the space at West Campus and would make it easier to socially distance?

  11. Even though I’m finally out of this screwed up district. I’m with you. One campus cop they will spend all the time conferring on in meetings, but they won’t fix or acknowledge and identify the real problem – OCI and it’s non-process and made up procedures they pull from their air to satisfy their egos and manipulate data to justify their restorative bull crap practices. If you take a look at the BHS website (and go to the tab resources/OCI/OCI Stuaff) – they only show a list of 4 employees. I might point out to all parents they have purposely shaved this list down so you can be sure never to really get access to them but through e-mail if that!. Notice there are only 2 photos of the 4 people and NO PHONE CONTACTS! And Kiernan Rok conveniently not coded in this list. What the hey. – There is some serious serious serious flaws with OCI but I know I’m preaching to the choir here with some. And with distance learning quite possibly on the horizon this group of individuals should not be hiding!

  12. Just another overreaction on the part of BUSD…It would be amazing if they could get their crap together.

  13. A solution in search of a problem brought to you by people with money to throw in the trash. Think Rick and Bill Ayers.

  14. > Re-Envision Police-Free Schools
    How about re-envisioning criminal-free schools first, and then we can talk about whether one campus cop is needed?

  15. > …a small blaze in a Port-O-Potty bathroom…
    The usual suspects would be the nearby homeless, or the denizens of the subsidized apartments along the 2200 block of Bonar. I thought cooking coke to shoot it up was out of fashion, so maybe it was deliberate arson.

  16. I’m OK with stuff that makes fat kids get more exercise, or just feel better about being in school. It’s all the do-nothing administrators, overpaid “consultants” and PC signalling projects that are the real wastes of money in BUSD’s budget.

  17. Kids already show up regularly with guns on the BHS and BTA campuses. They’re seldom detected because there are no metal detectors, and the ~20 school safety aides aren’t particularly vigilant, suspicious, or trained to spot the 7 warning signals of concealed carry in baggy clothing. I remember one PE teacher (reported by B’side) bragging about how he’d relieved 4 students of guns over the previous few years, so they didn’t need poh-lice on campus…totally unconcerned about reporting them to the police, or about how many he’d missed.
    They’ll respond to bullying and beatings the same way they do now–with their brand of restorative justice, where the victim is forced to apologize to the perp for events that happened over 150 years ago, and the perp says a few nice insincere words and goes off unpunished and convinced he can keep doing the same things indefinitely without consequences. Which he can, until he hits the sudden shock of the adult criminal justice system.

  18. Superintendent Brent Stephens and Oxford Elementary School Principal Beth Rhine apparently both don’t know how far 6 feet is.

    It’s masks AND distance. Not one or the other. If the greatest and grandest of BUSD cannot get it right, are we surprised when the plebs can’t either? This, dear people, is why the numbers are bad and becoming worse.

  19. What I want to know is, when they are revisioning education, if a kid shows up with a gun on campus, what will BUSD do to protect teachers and students? If a child is bullied and beat up, which happens a lot, how will BUSD respond to the child’s trauma?

  20. I want more police at Berkeley High not less and I know a lot of other parents feel the same way.

  21. “It will eventually also have an artificial turf field, two playgrounds, an outdoor learning area, a “peace path” and “enchanted forest,” both outdoors, a garden area and a sundial”
    my aren’t they being generous with our money