The Berkeley Community Media (BCM) reached an agreement with the Berkeley Unified School District last week, which allows it shared access to classroom space for its studio.
A severe space crunch compelled the Board of Education to approve four new classrooms in January, including converting Berkeley Community Media’s three-camera studio—located at Berkeley High School—into teaching space during the day.
Some local directors and community activists expressed concern about the studio reconfiguration, and demanded a public hearing on the district’s plans to convert the nonprofit’s studio space into a daytime classroom in July.
The district leases the ground floor of one of the Berkeley High buildings at 2239 Martin Luther King Jr. Way to BCM in exchange for BCM’s broadcasting school board meetings.
George Coates, a producer for Better Bad News on BETV, pressed a number of Berkeley councilmembers, including Linda Maio and Dona Spring, to hold a public hearing for the project.
Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz presented the issue as an information item to the council, titled “Berkeley Community Media Studio Endangered,” at the City Council meeting on June 24.
Although councilmember Maio moved the item to action, she later changed it back to information after giving the council an update on the situation later in the evening.
“BCM Director David Jolliffe has a letter from the superintendent which says BCM will not be affected negatively,” she said, after a ten-minute council recess. “They have agreed to share the space ... As I understand, the director is really pleased with the agreement.”
Coates told the council that he was displeased with the lack of a public process.
“We are being shut down without a public hearing,” he said. “They will start ripping down and constructing in early July, and we learned about that in late May.”
Jolliffe stressed that he had reached an agreement with the school district. “I am very optimistic that we are going to have both a classroom and a studio,” he said.
Mayor Bates asked if Coates’ concerns about community access to the studio were addressed in the agreement.
Jolliffe replied that access to the studio would be blocked when the district was painting and flooring the studio, but would open up once the construction of the classroom was completed.
District Facilities Director Lew Jones said the Division of the State Architect had not objected to the shared space.
“It’s not a condition on the permit,” he said. “They don’t care about it.”
Jones said he was looking at collapsible furniture that would be easier to remove after class.
“Initially we also wanted to have the ceiling and the floors designed as a typical classroom but BCM requested we tone it down a bit. So we are looking at gray floors which won’t reflect light.”
The district had earlier agreed to keep the lighting grid in the studio, which had been a major source of concern for staff and users of Berkeley Community Media.
The district is scheduled to start constructing the four new classrooms—which comes with a $480,000 price tag—around July 14, Jones said.