Establishment of Community Day School Considered

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 08, 2007

The Berkeley Board of Education will vote on approving a proposal to establish a Community Day School on Wednesday. 

Although the Berkeley Unified School District already runs an Independent Study Program (IS) which serves some students, the board has expressed interest in establishing intervention and opportunity programs for students facing problems at its high and middle schools. 

Since Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech), a continuation high school, cannot enroll students younger than 15-and-a-half years old or below sophomore level, the board is looking at options for students in the 12- to 15-year-old age group. 

The Berkeley Community Day School proposal seeks to address the needs of district middle school students who have faced expulsion from school, have disciplinary problems, are on probation, have attendance or adjustment problems, or require a smaller school setting. 

According to the staff report, “Students with a history of at-risk behaviors have been found to benefit measurably from an environment in which there is a lower student-teacher ratio and where the curriculum is customized to scaffold and accelerate student learning.” 

The program will initially enroll seventh- and eighth-graders and go on to serve sixth- through ninth-graders in the future. 

Although the exact location of the program is yet to be determined, district staff members propose that it should be kept at a distance from other schools. They recommend that the program be housed on a separate part of the B-Tech campus. Student interaction between the two programs—especially during lunch time—would be avoided by arranging different schedules, according to the proposal. 

The new program for younger students would have its own entrance, exit, restrooms, conference rooms, administrative offices and staff area, and would be separated from the rest of B-Tech by a gate. It would be under the direct supervision of B-Tech principal Victor Diaz who would look after its curriculum, staff development, day-to-day discipline and supervision and evaluation of staff and program, according to the proposal. 

B-Tech teachers and staff—who would be in close proximity to the Community Day School—have not yet given input on this proposal. The Independent Study students and staff have also not been consulted yet, but the Independent Study staff—whose program would be relocated to make room for the Community Day School at the site—have objected to the proposed move. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) has also expressed concerns about the location. 

The board is scheduled to act on the proposal at the May 23 meeting, since the application has to be approved by the California Board of Education by May 24. 

The total cost for teachers, instructional aid and a school safety officer at the proposed Community Day School is estimated to be $310,200. 

SB 288: Comprehensive Pupil Learning Support System 

The school board will vote on a letter in support of SB 288, which would provide grants to California school districts to help fund work being done in Berkeley, supported by an Integrating Schools and Mental Health Systems Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. 

School Board director Shirley Issel explains in her report that the recently completed Berkeley Schools Mental Health Partnership Strategic Plan was designed to build the kind of comprehensive system of school-based, school-linked mental health system that is called for in SB 288. 

“We have benefited in Berkeley from our association with the Center for Mental Health in Schools,” the report states, “and I believe SB 288 provides new opportunities for us and for other districts to develop and improve the delivery of vital support to students who face barriers in learning.” 


Perkins Grant for Berkeley Adult School 

The Board will vote on approving the Perkins Grant for the Berkeley Adult School Career Technical Education Programs for 2007-2008. The grant would fund the academic, vocational and technical skills of secondary and post-secondary students by funding the development of challenging academic standards and promoting the development of services that integrate academic, technical and vocational instruction. 


Educational items 

The board will vote on a recommendation for class size reduction in the 2007-08 school year with funds from the Berkeley Public Schools Educational Excellence Act of 2006 (Measure A of 2006) and Measure B of 2004. 

It will also vote on a recommendation for the district’s library program in the 2007-08 school year, with $1.3 million in funds from Measure A of 2006 and carryover funds of $146,000 from Measure B of 2004.