LeConte Extended Day Care Parents Protest Move

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 22, 2007

Parents of children at LeConte’s Extended Day Care (EDC) came to the school board meeting Wednesday to protest the program’s move from a bungalow outside the school to a basement inside the building at 2241 Russell St. 

Six parents spoke at the meeting, citing concerns including safety, health and overall development of their children. 

“We believe that the basement is really unsafe,” said Betty Hayes, whose granddaughter Deja attends the school. “There is only one way out and one way in. What’s going to happen to these 60 children when there’s an earthquake?” 

Hayes said she was proud of the program and wanted it supported by the district. 

“It teaches kids important things such as the anatomy of the human structure,” she said. “These are kids from low-income families of color. We want to return to the bungalow. That building might not look good to anybody else but that building has a lot of love.” 

District spokesperson Mark Coplan said the old bungalow was dilapidated. 

“There is no reason for concern for being moved into the basement,” he said. “We are always running out of space and the basement is completely safe.” 

LeConte’s EDC, which provides before- and after-school child care, is one of seven such programs in Berkeley. The program is open year-round for K-3 grade students, including winter and summer vacation. Children receive homework assistance, nutrition and computer education, and other forms of instruction. 

The program was housed in the basement once before, in 1994 for three years, after which it was moved to the bungalow. 

“I thank you for being concerned about the health and safety of your students by moving them into the basement,” said Rose Luckett, another parent. 

“Who will pay for our children when they fall sick from the damp environment? What will happen when the basement floods? I am disappointed that parents were not involved in the process.” 

Parents were first told about the proposed move in April. They started class in the basement Monday. 

“There are 60 students and only one restroom,” said Nahid Vafadari, an EDC parent. “The other building had two restrooms. There are also no fire sprinklers. When school opens after summer, the children will have to share the playground with the (older) school kids.” 

Shaliya Fields, 10, who attends LeConte EDC, told the Planet Wednesday that there was no room to play in the basement. 

“It’s cold, it’s dusty and there is no place to rest,” said Deja Walker, a second-grader. “What if there’s a flood? Sometimes it’s so hot it feels we are under the earth.” 

Ms. Demissie, parent of Marisol and Roteal, urged the board to go and visit the site. 

“I have three children who will be going into that basement everyday,” she said. “I want to know how long the bungalow has been unsafe. If it was unsafe, why weren’t we notified about it? Why weren’t we notified about the decision to move? Have you guys gone and inspected the place? There’s high voltage electricity down there. There are no fire detectors. There is only one exit. Do you want to send your children to the basement?” 

District superintendent Michele Lawrence told the group that she has not been into the basement yet but plans to visit it soon. She added that the bungalow was in a deplorable condition and would have to be knocked down. 

“But I don’t want that program to be hurt,” she said. “I am mostly surprised to hear from parents today that they were not informed about the move. The decision was made six months ago.”