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BHS hopes for smoother scheduling

By Ben Lumpkin Daily Planet staff
Wednesday August 08, 2001

Berkeley school administrators have hatched a plan they say will put an end to the class scheduling nightmares that too often taint the first few weeks of school at Berkeley High. 

Last year, these weeks were characterized by hundreds of students waiting in long lines to see their guidance counselors to get their schedules changed.  

Many of the students had legitimate complaints – they found gaps in their schedules, or inappropriate classes, such as freshman English scheduled for a sophomore.  

But other students simply took advantage of the fact that a change of heart about the elective they picked the previous spring could be a legitimate excuse to skip the first two weeks of school. 

“It became almost like a game,” said Berkeley High Principal Frank Lynch. “You could ride this puppy for two weeks easily.” 

Under the new plan, Berkeley High  

counselors will come back to school a week early this year and thoroughly review student schedules, correcting all the obvious errors before the students get on campus. Then, if students find they are still unhappy with their schedules, instead of lining up outside a counselor’s office for hours on end, they will be asked to make an appointment.  

More urgent cases, such as someone who is missing a required class, will be seen first. Until students have met with counselors, they will be expected to attend all the classes on their schedule, whatever they are. 

Lynch said the new plan will significantly reduce the hours guidance counselors must spend dealing with scheduling issues. There is roughly one counselor for every 500 students in the school. Many have complained in the past that these staff members, ostensibly there to prevent struggling students from “falling through the cracks,” are often too overwhelmed with administrative work to attend to other problems. 

In another effort to free up Berkeley High staff to do what they have been hired to do, the Berkeley Unified School District’s central office staff has taken over the task of processing new student enrollment at the school. 

Students who don’t show up to enroll until after school has begun (Lynch estimated that 100 students or more could fall into this category) will be sent directly to the district’s Parent Access Office, at 1835 Allston Way, instead of being asked to wait in a long line to see a Berkeley High administrative assistant. Last year the task fell to the principal’s administrative assistant, who was thus unavailable to support Lynch for much of his first month on the job. 

The access office not only has more personnel to throw at the job, but is located near the Special Education Office and the Student Services Offices, both of which must sometimes play a role in the registration process. Families who are new to Berkeley, or whose children have attended private school through the eighth grade, will thus be able to register for Berkeley High with one relatively swift and painless visit, said Parent Access Office Coordinator Francisco Martinez. 

“It’s much more effective. It’s much more streamlined,” Martinez said.  

Board of Education President Terry Doran, a long time teacher at Berkeley High, said he was “hopeful” the new plans, taken together, would prevent students from missing critical class time in the opening days of school. In an effort to accommodate students’ desires, the system has spun a little bit out of control over the years, he said. 

“There were legitimate reasons for (students to ask for) changes, but the system has to decide at some point which ones do you honor and for what reasons,” Doran said. “No student should have a gap in their schedule, period. We have to have that from day one.”