Frequently Asked Questions: Enrollment Growth & Facilities Planning

Why are Jefferson and Rosa Parks at the top of the priority list for a new classroom?

A full assessment of all preschool and elementary school facilities and enrollment growth patterns was conducted. The increase in number of families with school-age children has been highest in the northwest and central attendance zones, which is why five new classrooms were constructed at Jefferson Elementary, opening this year. Jefferson currently has two “flex” rooms, one of which is listed for use as a new classroom pending the number of classrooms needed in the fall. Meanwhile, due to a programmatic change in the special education program at Rosa Parks Elementary, one of the previously occupied classrooms will be available for fall 2015-16.

The short-term plan provides for up to five more classrooms. What if more are needed?

It is not anticipated that more than five classrooms will be needed, but just to be safe, our contingency plans for opening classrooms is represented in this table:

If need is… use… and… and… and… and…
1 classroom Jefferson
2 classrooms Jefferson Rosa Parks
3 classrooms King Preschool (3)
4 classrooms King Preschool (3) Jefferson
5 classrooms King Preschool (3) Jefferson Rosa Parks
6 classrooms King Preschool (3) Jefferson Emerson
7 classrooms King Preschool (3) Jefferson Emerson John Muir
8 classrooms King Preschool (3) Jefferson Emerson John Muir Washington

The short-term plan includes a potential consolidation of some Transitional Kindergarten (TK) classrooms at the King Child Development Center (CDC) on Ward Street. How does that work?

The School Board adopted a short-term solution to create more space in our elementary schools in the coming school year that would include moving TK classrooms to a preschool, if three or more new classrooms are needed in the fall of 2015-16. There are currently additional classrooms at the King CDC preschool site that could be used to house three TK classrooms. The number of TK classrooms that would need to be moved to a preschool depends on the incoming TK and kindergarten student enrollment, and could result in moving preschool classes to the other preschool site at Franklin.

Moving some TK classrooms would include an assessment of staffing needs as well as preschool and TK program coordination. TK programs are offered to our youngest five year olds who are not yet eligible for Kindergarten because of their fall birthdays. The state has been providing funding to allow these students to attend a TK program to better prepare them for the transition to Kindergarten. There are currently several elementary schools that have TK programs. (Currently, TK students are assigned to a school for the one- year TK program, and re-enroll the following year to participate in the Kindergarten school assignment process.)

Why do we have to wait until 2016-17 to consider the use of additional portable classrooms?

New construction and modifications of school facilities, including the addition of portables, require a minimum of 12-18 months for planning, approval from the State Architect, and implementation. It is expected that new portables could be in place for the 2016-17 school year.

Why were Thousand Oaks, LeConte, and John Muir chosen as locations for potential portable classrooms?

While undeveloped acreage at our school sites is limited, Thousand Oaks, LeConte, and John Muir have flat open space that might be used to place portables. On January 14, 2015, the Board directed staff to further investigate the necessary work to install portable classrooms at these schools.

Placing portables at some schools is a medium-term solution to address continued increase enrollment, and offers the possibility of restoring flex rooms to schools over time. Berkeley’s elementary school populations range from 300-570 students. When considering where to place portables, one concern is how to equitably distribute enrollment increases. For example, our largest elementary school, Malcolm X Elementary, has added five new classrooms since 2012-13.

LeConte Elementary is a Two-Way Immersion (Spanish-English) school community. Would portables affect that program?

A corner of the LeConte grounds is currently underutilized. If a portable were placed there, the location might be suitable for Transitional Kindergarten (TK) classrooms, and one option could be to house a bilingual TK program at that site.

Is it possible to adjust class sizes in order to avoid the short and mid-term solution of using portables and flex rooms, and/or the long-term solution of creating a new elementary school?

With the support of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) together with the Class Size Reduction funds from the State of California, our schools are currently at district-wide average class sizes of 20:1 in grades K-3, 26:1 in grades 4-5, and 28:1 in grades 6-12.

According to the current BSEP Measure, those class size averages are to be maintained unless state funding changes. However, beginning in 2013-14, the State of California has put a cap on funding targeted toward rewarding class sizes at 24:1 for K-3, and no longer provides additional funding to meet the previous 20:1 class size goal. This means that for BUSD to continue to maintain 20:1 in grades K-3 significant local funding is required, and is not without trade-offs. For example, an increase in class size in grades K-3 might offset the long-term need for an additional site, and/or free up flex space. Any such adjustments would have to be phased in over time, with many other considerations to be examined before such a change.

While the board has not included class-size adjustments in the current short-term facilities discussions, the class size funding issue is part of the BSEP Planning & Oversight Committee review of the use and sustainability of BSEP funding for class size reduction and for related program support.

Is the District planning to close the Berkeley Adult School?

We have no plans at this time to eliminate the adult school programs. Currently housed at 1701 San Pablo Avenue, the Berkeley Adult School serves adult students in a variety of daytime and evening courses, including GED preparation, English as a Second Language, and Career Technical Education. Adult education funding is being restructured across the State of California, but we have retained our commitment to adult education in Berkeley.

One of the options under consideration for a long-term solution is whether the district could move the adult school programs to another district facility, in order to make room for an elementary or K-8 school. The Berkeley Adult School is currently located at the site previously known as Franklin Elementary School. Developing a new school site, or repurposing one, would require significant local resources, and a more exhaustive feasibility study before any decision can be made.

Can we solve our school growth issue by ensuring that only Berkeley residents are enrolled in our schools?

There are a number of ways that children can be legally enrolled in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD). Most students enroll by providing the required documentation, including a birth certificate, three proofs of Berkeley residency, and a school preference form.

California state law also provides for access without proof of residency in some cases. There are currently 502 students who qualify through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, and 46 students who attend our schools with a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. In addition, there are 644 students currently enrolled in our district through an official interdistrict transfer process which allows them to legally enroll in our schools without living in the city of Berkeley. This number includes 168 children of BUSD employees who are enrolled in our district.

Home visits and document verification procedures are used to prevent parents/guardians from enrolling their children in our schools under false pretenses. In this school year alone, 436 home visits were conducted to verify residency, and 76 of those checked were denied enrollment. However, some parents/guardians have fraudulently enrolled their children in our schools, and do not have legal authorization for their child to attend a BUSD school.

All fifth grade students, including those currently enrolled in the BUSD, are being required to submit a middle school application, including three official proofs of residency. The district is looking closely at policies and practices governing admissions and enrollment, and the Superintendent is discussing options with local superintendents, who share concerns about appropriate enrollment procedures.

 

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