The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board met Wednesday to discuss their ongoing workforce housing project and new middle school assignment model.
Maegan Pearson, an associate vice president of development with Abode Communities, presented updates to the workforce housing project, which will provide affordable housing to BUSD employees near Berkeley Adult School. School Board Director Julie Sinai has led the district’s involvement in the project, which encompasses 110 units available to a range of incomes.
Pearson shared new floor plans with the board directors at the meeting and presented the project’s governance committee, which sets the policy associated with workforce housing, including the lottery process and qualifying resident criteria. The committee’s first meeting will be held in December.
“If there’s any way as a community member that I can continue to support this, I think it’s gonna be so valuable,” Sinai said at the meeting. “Even though it takes a while to get these units built, once they’re built I’m really excited to see what will happen with it.”
During the public comment period, several parents voiced concerns about the new middle school assignment program, which redistributes students among BUSD’s three middle schools: King, Longfellow and Willard. The program was approved to ensure equitable and diverse student bodies among all three schools, according to Francisco Martinez, admissions manager at BUSD, though some parents expressed their worries surrounding the elementary school’s Two Way Immersion program, or TWI, at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School.
According to the new enrollment zones, students in TWI must enroll at Longfellow Middle School, presenting personal and logistical challenges for some families.
“If families want to bow out of the TWI program for whatever reason, I just ask that your policy clarifies that they can do that,” one parent said at the meeting.
BUSD has a long history of student integration — according to Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel, the district was the first major public school system in the United States to voluntarily integrate its schools in 1968. In 1994, two attendance zones were drawn to include King and Willard Middle Schools, with Longfellow as a third enrollment option.
This initial redistribution temporarily increased diversity among the student bodies, but the middle schools have once again become segregated, according to Martinez.
The three new proposed attendance zones are based on a composite diversity map, which illustrates the city’s geographic distribution of three socioeconomic factors: socioeconomic status, parent education and race, all according to 2020 census data. According to Martinez, the new enrollment map creates far more integrated and diverse schools. The zones were officially approved by the school board on June 15.
“Student integration is not an easy thing to do,” Martinez said during the meeting. “If it were easy, everybody would do it, and we wouldn’t be here having this discussion tonight”