Dear Berkeley School Community, 

Berkeley is a very attractive place to live and raise a family, and we are proud of the fact that our schools offer vibrant centers of learning and community for our students and their families.

 

Over the last five years we have seen continued growth in the number of elementary-school age children attending our schools. A recent demographic study conducted for the school district predicted that this growth will continue. The demographer estimated that, between 2014 and 2018, we will see approximately 250 more elementary age students enroll. We are working with a conservative estimate that 4-6 new classrooms will be needed in the next school year alone (2015-16). A Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program has also been phased in as a response to the state mandate of providing an option for children with fall birthdays who are not eligible for Kindergarten, which has required more classrooms in our elementary schools.  

 

So far the new growth has been accommodated by maximizing the use of instructional spaces at each school facility. This includes the recently completed construction of five new classrooms at Jefferson Elementary. In the process, some schools no longer have "flex space", a spare classroom available for art, science, student support services, reading groups, music instruction and more. Ideally we want every school to have this additional "flex space", but we are now at the point where there are very few such extra classrooms remaining.

 

Predicting the number of students who will enroll in the future is complex. We expect to have a better picture of next year's enrollment after the first enrollment deadline in February. In order to be well prepared, and avoid last minute shuffling to find space and adequate staffing, we have worked with the School Board to establish a priority list of additional classroom space to be used as needed in the coming year. The Board unanimously endorsed a short-term solution for the 2015-16 school year that would open classrooms based on demand, using the following spaces in this order:

 

If need is...

use...

and...

and...

1 classroom

Jefferson



2 classrooms

Jefferson

Rosa Parks


3 classrooms

King Preschool (3)



4 classrooms

King Preschool (3)

Jefferson


5 classrooms

King Preschool (3)

Jefferson

Rosa Parks

 

The School Board also directed staff to further investigate medium-term solutions that involve the possibility of adding portable classrooms at a few schools [Thousand Oaks (3), LeConte (3), and John Muir (1)], with the idea that this number of additional classrooms could both accommodate growth and help to restore flex spaces over time. The decision to study the placement of portable classrooms at these three schools was based on programmatic considerations and available acreage, while considering equity across schools.

 

More information on these decisions can be found online in a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

There are several factors that will have an impact on the possible long-term solution of possibly opening a new elementary, or K-8 school. Our discussions with the School Board include looking at all of the district's facilities, including the space that houses REALM Charter School at our 2020 Bonar Street property, the Berkeley Adult School that is housed in what was previously Franklin Elementary School, and the Oregon Street Maintenance Facility which was once a school site.

 

We are not yet in a position to make a final recommendation for changes that would help support our growth beyond 2016-17. Repurposing school facilities and/or opening a new school will have significant implications for our school district and city. We need more time to look at real enrollment numbers in February, review potential adjustments to our current enrollment policies and practices, and consider possible modifications to our current facility and classroom usage before making a long-term plan.

 

I appreciate the collective thinking and participation from the school communities that has gone into the decision process thus far, and hope that the additional information provided in the answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will help spread understanding about these complex decisions. We are also planning to hold a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, March 4 to provide a public forum for discussing the issues and answering questions.

 

Our goal is to be very thoughtful in our deliberations, proactive and equitable in seeking solutions, and to maintain high standards for the student experience.

 

Sincerely,

 

Donald Evans, Ed.D. 

Superintendent

 

Frequently Asked Questions: Enrollment Growth & Facilities Planning