The Berkeley Unified School District at a public meeting on Monday is scheduled to unveil a plan to rehabilitate West Campus before taking it to the Berkeley Board of Education later in the month.
On Aug. 20, the board is scheduled to pick either the rehabilitation plan or a design outlining the use of prefabricated structures in order to relocate the district’s administrative staff from the seismically unsafe old City Hall building on 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way to West Campus.
At a school board meeting last month, the board did not approve the use of prefabricated modular buildings and instead directed staff to develop rehabilitation plans for the existing red brick building on Bonar Street
Critics of the school district’s proposed West Campus alterations with the use of modulars said the prefabricated structures would ruin the site’s open space, and they pushed for renovation of the building which is already there prompting District Superintendent Bill Huyett to explore that option.
The district looked into retrofitting West Campus two years ago, but abandoned the possibility when the costs turned out to be prohibitive, almost double the allocated budget for the site, school board President John Selawsky told the Planet.
“It was around $18 to 20 million,” he said. “We just couldn’t do it. Hopefully the scaled-back renovations will cost much less. But we will also need to know what we are getting from it. The amount of square footage is very important. I know we need at least 25,000 square feet for our offices.”
Selawsky said the board will give emphasis to the concerns raised by the community at two public meetings held recently before it approves a plan for West Campus.
“I heard there was strong opposition to the modulars,” he said. “Most of the neighbors want the place to be renovated. This meeting will allow people to comment on the design and give the district time to make revisions before taking it to the board.”
Lew Jones, the district’s facilities director, said changes to the building’s interior as well as exterior would be presented to the public at the meeting.
“Conceptually the first floor would have classrooms and space for public functions,” he said, adding that the five classrooms would serve the Berkeley Adult School, which has expressed the need for more space.
Offices for human resources and the business department would be built on the second floor, Jones said, and the superintendent, along with Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith, would occupy the third floor.
The building’s exterior would undergo few changes, he said, with renovation focusing mainly on replacing the glass windows.
“We hope to start work in February 2010,” Jones said. “If we renovate the buildings it will take more time than the modulars. So the offices should be ready for the district to move in by 2011.”
Jones said the district was also investigating the possibility of refurbishing the cafeteria, which would be used for school board and City Council meetings if the plans were approved.
“We are currently working on the cost estimates and we don’t expect to have it before the board meeting,” Jones said
At a public meeting in June, Huyett informed West Campus residents that rehabilitation expenses had turned out to be slightly more than the modulars, which were estimated to cost the district around $10 million.
“We have to look at the finances very carefully,” Selawsky said. “Our bids have been coming in lower than usual for some time, maybe because of a decrease in construction costs, so we have a little bit more from bond money. I haven’t seen the price tag yet but personally I favor the rehabilitation option.”
Although some community members had pressed Huyett to create a master plan for West Campus, Selawsky said the district did not have the need or the financial means for it at this point.
“Ideally it’s a nice idea, but unfortunately we don’t have the bond money for it now,” he said. “We don’t anticipate going out for another bond before 2010 or 2012. Also, we don’t have any needs that would be solved at West Campus. We have various needs that might be fulfilled, but we need to go through our list of properties first and match them up before moving to a master plan.”
The district passed a resolution last week to work with the City of Berkeley to find a site for the warm water pool but refrained from mentioning West Campus as a preferred site.
The meeting will be held on Aug. 4, Monday, 7-8 p.m. at the West Campus Boys’ Gym, 1222 University Ave.
For more information visit www.berkeley.k12.ca.us or call 644-6066.