5 New Portables for Berkeley High

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday January 21, 2009 - 07:40:00 PM

Five new portable classrooms will be added to the six already on the grounds of Berkeley High School by fall to combat overcrowding in the existing classrooms. 

The Berkeley Board of Education last week approved a proposal by Lew Jones, the Berkeley Unified School District’s director of facilities, to allot $1.5 million for the construction of these prefabricated trailer-type structures on the high school’s softball field. 

The district hired HKIT Architects for $65,000 to design and provide construction services for the portables. 

Severely jammed classrooms at the high school have forced teachers to hold classes inside portables at Washington Elementary School, on the steps of the Community Theater and at times in the playgrounds outside, prompting the Berkeley Board of Education to approve around $1.7 million for six portables and four new classrooms last year that were occupied by students when school opened after Christmas break on Jan. 5. 

Jones said that after studying enrollment trends at Berkeley High—projected to increase in the coming years—it was evident that it needed at least three additional portables. 

The current electrical infrastructure is equipped to support up to five additional portables. 

“While it is not clear that Berkeley High needs all five portables, it does not make sense to piecemeal additional portables in the following year,” Jones said. “It could very well be that the high school may be able to bring back the students at the Washington portables with the additional portables.” 

Jones said that although each unit in a portable can hold up to 50 students, the district would never have classes that large. 

“We are treating them just like regular classrooms at Berkeley High, so they are averaging 28 students, although a few might have around 33,” he said. 

The portables come equipped with handicapped ramps and a restroom unit at the end of the run. The interiors look like regular classrooms with chairs and desks and, in some cases, computer hookups. 

Berkeley Federation of Teachers Cathy Campbell said teachers were happy with the six new portables. 

Jones said that the 15 new classrooms proposed for a new building—which would replace the Old Gym, as laid out in the high school’s South of Bancroft Master Plan—would be constructed at the end of 2011.  

The school district does not have funds to build the new classrooms. 

“Once we identify the money and finish constructing the classrooms, we will be able to remove the portables,” he said. 

The first phase of the master plan—the construction of the new bleachers—is scheduled for 2010. The Old Gym is scheduled to be torn down in June 2011.