The 1992 Bond
The Berkeley Unified School District has undertaken a massive building program in the past eight years. In June 1992, the citizens of Berkeley passed a $158 million bond measure. The measure included projects at virtually all BUSD facilities. The types of projects included new schools, structural retrofit of existing schools, modernization of existing schools and a 10 year plan to replace deteriorating building systems. The lion’s share of the expenditures were targeted on replacement or reinforcement of our buildings which had known seismic hazards.
One new project is currently out to bid (Berkeley High School student center/library and new gymnasium) and one structural retrofit project will be ready to bid very soon (King Middle School). There are numerous other completed projects which were needed to fix failing buildings and make educational improvements. In the past six years we have also completed four large projects occasioned by educational changes which were not anticipated in 1992 (Emerson, John Muir, Oxford and Longfellow Middle School). In keeping with the priorities for the 1992 measure, we have structurally retrofitted three schools (Malcolm X, Washington and Whittier) and built four new schools (Columbus, Cragmont, Thousand Oaks and the Alternative High School).
Many things have been accomplished, but the evolving demands of education and the community have created additional needs. In the past eight years, the School District has not been standing still in its educational program. One important change which took place early in the construction program was the adoption of a revised grade configuration. The School District had voluntarily desegregated its schools in 1964. At the time the 1992 bond passed, a child would attend four different schools in his/her school career: a K-3 school, a 4-6 school, a 7-8 school and a 9-12 school. In 1994, the Board of Education adopted a new grade configuration which was implemented in the next school year. Now a child attends three schools: a K-5 school, a 6-8 school and a 9-12 school. This shift of 6th grade from the elementary to the middle schools, resulted in the need for more middle schools and fewer elementary schools.
Longfellow School was chosen to undergo this evolution. The needs of middle schools are different than the needs of elementary schools. Middle schools need a gymnasium and locker rooms, larger libraries, science laboratories and better performance spaces. The investment in these new facilities required a revision in the original construction plan.
Class size reduction
In 1998 the State began an ambitious program to reduce class sizes in the kindergarten through third grades. Berkeley enthusiastically took part in this program. In order to implement in all four grades, 30% more classrooms were needed. The State did not adequately fund the need for new classrooms. Berkeley made major changes in its construction program to support this educational goal, including adding classrooms at three sites (Emerson, John Muir and Oxford Elementary schools) and opening a new school (the City of Franklin Elementary School). This need for quality classrooms is recognized in the new bond measure, with a significant project planned for the Franklin site.
In 1992, much technology currently in classrooms was unheard of. A few of our schools had stand-alone computer labs, but there were no networked computers. Since then, there has been a revolution in teaching brought on by computer networking. Public schools are probably the best place to bridge the digital divide. Berkeley has made a significant commitment to this new educational approach. Resources for computer wiring and electrical wiring are needed at all our schools to support this vision.
Recently the Board of Education took an historic step recognizing the connection between a child’s nutrition and his/her learning. This new program will benefit all students, but particularly children from low income families. Revised facilities are needed if we are to support this new program. The new bond will allow for the creation of cooking facilities at our schools.
As the new schools were opened and as Berkeley made the other changes listed above, the citizens responded by bringing their children back to the public schools. We have experienced a 20% increase in enrollment in the past six years. This increase has required new classrooms. We have partially met this need in the current construction program, however, added resources are needed to support the high school’s population growth. The new bond will increase the number of classrooms at Berkeley High School.
Berkeley has been successful in identifying additional resources to support the building program. To date, over $28 million has been received from state, federal and local sources to supplement the bond measure. With a new bond the District will be eligible to receive additional money from future State bonds.
All expenditures of bond funds and other construction funds are approved by the Board of Education. The Board also deliberates planned expenditures at least yearly. Usually in December, the Board requests that the Superintendent prepare recommendations for the next year. These recommendations are usually adopted in January. In February or March, the Board normally adopts its yearly plan. The current plan was adopted on March 15, 2000. The Yearly Facilities Plans for 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 are available in the Public Information Office, the public library, the UC library and the Facilities Planning Office.
The Citizens Construction Advisory Committee, a Board appointed review committee, was charged with reviewing and reporting on the construction program. The Committee has a proven track record of citizen oversight and produced an annual report, usually in the month of December. Previous reports have included a look at lifecycle policies, a review of change orders, a detailed review of expenditures for identified projects, a report on available funding, and recommendations to improve bidding policies.
Continuing the program
The new bond will continue the current construction program and allow us to replace building systems before they are beyond repair. With proper maintenance, we can extend the life of our building systems. The new bond does not budget for maintenance, since such expenditures cannot be paid with a general obligation bond, but it can pay for the replacement of those systems. If the maintenance tax measure passes we can extend the life of our systems; if the bond passes as well, we can replace those well maintained systems on a regular schedule. Together, the proposed Bond Measure (Measure AA) and Special Tax Measure (Measure BB) will realize our vision for new and renovated school facilities which, with proper maintenance, will serve the Berkeley community for years to come.