Public Comment

New: Berkeley School Board Reneges on Promise Regarding 5th Grade Class Size at Jefferson Elementary

Phyllis Davis
Friday April 17, 2015 - 07:27:00 PM

I am a concerned Berkeley resident, tax payer, and the mother of four children, ages 6 to 17, two of whom are at Jefferson Elementary School.  

You may already know about this, but there has been a massive expansion program at Jefferson Elementary School over the last few years. In many ways, Jefferson is the ideal picture of a community elementary school with committed students, teachers, and parents. 

However at this point, the entire community is up in arms over a school district plan to greatly increase the class size in 5th grade. The specific implementation of the class size increase is not entirely clear, as the school board may have a mixed 4th/5th grade class in mind (see the next paragraph for some details), but the bottom line is that the way the board is proposing to act reneges on the commitments that were made when an additional 4th grade class was added, simply to save some money. 

Before the building expansion at Jefferson, it was planned that there would be a new 4th grade class. We got that this year. Next year we were supposed to get a third 5th grade class. The district is trying to back out on this promise. Apparently, the reason is because of money. All the proposed solutions that the district has come up with--combo 4th-5th class, an intern teacher from Mills college, a part-time swing teacher who visits the combo class a few days a week--cost the district nothing. Adding a new 5th grade section and teacher cost money. 

Parents, teachers, and students of course fear that these proposed actions will negatively impact the educational experience at Jefferson. In addition, there are serious concerns that by going back on their word and not using tax payer funds that were meant to facilitate smaller class sizes, BUSD will lose credibility and the ability to partner with Berkeley property tax payers for future incremental income. 

I've started a petition related to these issues at The petition is addressed to the members of the Berkeley School Board and Superintendent Donald Evans. Here's the link: 

I think you will find the community member comments at the bottom of the petition web page particularly interesting. Note that you may need to click the "Most Recent" button or "View More" to see all the comments.