Public Comment

What the District Doesn’t Want You to Know About Berkeley High’s Master Plan

By Marie Bowman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:02:00 AM

The Trustees of the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) have hidden behind “the children” in an attempt to convince students, parents and the greater community that the unreasonably idealistic Berkeley High School Master Plan must be implemented. Here’s what you really need to know about the BHS Master Plan: 

• No-expense-too-great framework. There was no discussion on what it would cost to develop the plan or what the price would be to the children when funds are pulled for academics or the burden placed upon the public to pay for the unnecessary and unrealistic plan.  

• False/manufactured need for more classrooms. The Master Plan claims five to 10 more classrooms are needed, based on questionable premises. Seven class periods were routine at BHS until Michelle Lawrence eliminated seventh period. By simply reinstating seventh period, the supposed need for more classrooms would disappear.  

• Classrooms were secondary in the Master Plan. 

• Athletics—not academics or physical education—is being promoted as a worthy but not primary mission of the BHS. The tail is wagging the dog while the dropout rate and achievement gaps are growing. 

The plan calls for thousands of new seats / bleachers and bathrooms. Can our athletes not walk a short distance to the original gym, as do the basketball players? 

Attendance is low at BHS football and track and field events—so why do we need thousands of extra seats? They can’t fill what they have now! 

There is no need to demolish the gym for a baseball field or basketball courts, as the Derby field has meet the needs as defined in the EIR. The Derby field is currently under development. In addition to the BHS baseball field, BHS students have access to the Gilman fields, Tom Bates fields, Harrison fields, West Campus, San Pablo and Charles Joseph Park ball fields.  

What’s so good about being an historic district? 

• Our local, state and federal governments have each recognized the BHS and the original gym as resources worthy of protection. 

• National designation provides for the rebuilding of the historical buildings, including the original gym in the event of a natural disaster. Financially neither the BUSD or the city is in the position to rebuild these facilities. 

• Access to rehabilitation of these buildings with other funding so that the burden is not solely on the Berkeley taxpayer. The City of Richmond received $2 million-plus from the state to rehabilitate its plunge.  

Rehabilitation of the original gym can provide more classrooms, offices, conference rooms and ancillary space, than the Trustees initial desires. 

Rehabilitation of the original gym will help us to build our future through sustainability. 

Rehabilitation of the warm water pool will provide a needed facility for the BHS students with special needs as well as the community. 

Measure Y, an agreement between the BUSD and the residents provides for community use of BUSD facilities in consideration for the community’s investment of BUSD facilities. 

It’s wasteful and disrespectful to the community to demolish two buildings and replace them with two new buildings when everyone benefits educationally, financially, physically and responsibly by the rehabilitation of the original gym. Let’s teach the students the many valuable lessons this opportunity provides— compassion for the physically challenged, architecture, appreciation for the community’s investment in BHS facilities, financial responsibility and building a future through sustainability. 


Marie Bowman is a board member for Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources (FPBR) and Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA).