School Board Approves Sixth St. Property Sale, Berkeley High Late-Start Mondays

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 02, 2009 - 09:41:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education approved the lease and sale of its Sixth Street property to the City of Berkeley at the June 24 School Board meeting in exchange for a two-year lease of Old City Hall. 

The seismically unsafe Old City Hall is the current headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. The district plans to move into the former Berkeley Adult School building on University Avenue in 2011. The building is currently being rehabilitated. 

Berkeley Unified Director of Facilities Lew Jones told the Daily Planet that the accord between the school district and the city had several components. 

Essentially, Jones said, both parties decided to trade the sale and seven-year lease of the Sixth Street property to the city for a two-year lease extension of the Old City Hall and its annex at 1835 Allston Way, five years of nursing services, and a payment by the city to the school district and waiver of payments due from the district to the city. 

The city will waive two years’ worth of sewer fees and other fees owed by the school district as part of the agreement. At the end of the seven-year lease period, the city, which does not have the necessary funds to purchase the Sixth Street property right now, will buy it for a quarter of a million dollars. 

Although the market value of renting the Old City Hall for two years is estimated to be $1.5 million, the school district will have to pay the city an annual rental fee of only $1 because the city agreed to waive the fair-market rental value as part of the agreement.  

The lease does not include the second-floor City Council Chambers. The district will be responsible for payment of all utility bills. 

The school district has rented the Old City Hall building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way from the city in exchange for the district’s lease of the Sixth Street site since July 1, 1979. Both parties paid $1 a year for 30 years for the exchange. The three-decade agreement expired Tuesday, June 30. 

Jones told the board in a report at the meeting that Berkeley Unified has not used the Sixth Street property for anything since the accord was first reached. 

The city subleased the building at 2031 Sixth St. to LifeLong Medical Center’s West Berkeley Family Practice Center, which provides low-cost medical services to low-income families. 

Because the district was interested in either selling or leasing the Sixth Street property, it looked into ways to “surplus” it first, as mandated by district policy. A Surplus Facilities Committee was formed Jan. 19, 2005, and two years later, the board referred the property to the group. After meeting several times between August 2007 and January 2008, the surplus committee recommended surplusing the site, a decision that met with board approval on March 26, 2008. 

On Dec. 1, 2008, the City of Berkeley expressed interest in response to the school district’s query as to whether any public entity was interested in leasing or buying the property, which led to negotiations over the past seven months. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and several of the councilmembers expressed support for helping LifeLong continue its operation there. LifeLong’s doctors, patients and staff spoke at a public meeting urging the city to serve their facility, which has been a lifeline for many families who otherwise cannot afford health insurance. 


School Board approves late-start Mondays 

The Berkeley Board of Education approved late-start Mondays for professional development of teachers at Berkeley High School as part of the school’s recently approved restructuring. 

The school is also investigating an alternate schedule in place of the existing six-period daily schedule, which will not start until the 2010-11 academic year. 

Under late-start Mondays, Berkeley High School officials are proposing a delayed start for students on Monday morning, which they hope to balance by a slightly longer school day Tuesday through Friday. Teachers will use the time on Monday morning, before school starts, to collaborate among themselves. 

Berkeley High Vice Principal Vernon Walton told the School Board that the school was proposing to extend classes from 43 to 47 minutes on Mondays. He said that classes would be increased from 55 to 58 minutes Tuesday through Fridays. 

Funding for the program comes from a smaller learning communities program grant. 

The idea is very much in line with a model currently used in the K-8 schools, which have shorter Wednesdays and extended school hours on the other four days to ensure that total instructional time for students is not reduced. 

Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp said that the total amount of instructional time would not be reduced under the new bell schedule. He said the school would provide the board with a report in the fall on how the new schedule was doing.  

Boardmember Karen Hemphill told the Daily Planet after the meeting that professional development time would allow teachers from the small schools to meet with their counterparts from the larger programs to discuss their concerns and focus on equity work across the school..