Berkeley school board discusses police in schools, fall plans, budget cuts

Berkeley high school launches mental health line for students
Chen Gong/File

Related Posts

The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board discussed many topics during its Wednesday meeting, including a resolution to reimagine the role of police in schools, budget updates and fall planning.

The police resolution proposes beginning a discussion with Berkeley High School, or BHS, and Berkeley Technology Academy, or BTA, families and staff about the role of the school resource officer and police officers at the schools.

“Research shows that engagement with police often perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline which is incompatible and antithetical to our goal of creating safe, healthy, and equitable schools for all BHS and BTA students,” the resolution states.

During the meeting’s public comment session, many BUSD community members urged the board to take steps beyond the resolution to support Black students, including reallocating resources to focus on their academic success.

“Black students fail at BHS because they are expected to fail,” claimed Mimi Pulich, president of the BHS PTA. “If we really want Black lives to matter at BHS, we need to forge new paths for Black students’ success.”

The resolution was discussed and will be voted on by the board at the next meeting July 1.

The board later turned to discussion of the budget. The district initially thought that the governor’s May revision would result in a loss of about $7.7 million. After the recent state budget deal, however, less cuts will be necessary in the district.

The cuts — totaling $5.3 million — will require BUSD to leave certain vacant positions unfilled and to reduce spending on nutrition services and the cooking and gardening program. The district will not have to make any layoffs.

The board also discussed the specifics of reopening schools, following a recent meeting between BUSD staff and city health officer Lisa Hernandez.

The district will require daily screening procedures, routine daily cleaning and essential protective equipment — specifically, face coverings for all students age 12 and older, as well as for staff, with face shields as optional augmentation. The district has also identified and set up temporary isolation spaces in all schools.

Playgrounds will not be open, and field trips and assemblies will likely not occur in the fall. Regulations around sports are still to be determined.

The district also shared data that 35% to 38% of families are “probably not comfortable” or “definitely not comfortable” letting their children resume in-person instruction, which means that BUSD will have to educate students who will be working entirely from home. 

Multiple plans for these students have been suggested but not finalized, including a distance learning academy where students work with a teacher who is also at home, a hybrid model where students at home work with a teacher who may also be teaching in person and possible expansion of the district’s preexisting independent study program.

Although the district has made a lot of progress with detailed plans for the fall, nothing is completely fleshed out, according to BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens. He will return to the board potentially as early as July 15 to seek approval for finalized models.

Contact Clara Brownstein at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @clarabrownstein.