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BUSD hears from students, teachers on environmental issues, construction concerns

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The Board heard comment from elementary and middle schoolers as well as schoolteachers during Wednesday's meeting.


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MAY 07, 2023

The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, Board of Education heard comments from students and community members seeking further focus on environmental issues among other topics discussed at their regular meeting Wednesday.

The public comment began with a collaborative speech from two fourth grade students at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, who sought further consideration for climate literacy and a further allocation of funds towards the district’s climate literacy group.

Other Thousand Oaks students also spoke on climate issues, calling for additional support to increase the funding of the climate literacy group and proposing the addition of “Environmentalism” to the “Excellence, Equity, Engagement, Enrichment” motto that adorns the Berkeley Public Schools logo.

Advocacy from students continued with speeches from two Longfellow Middle School students, each with their own issues to highlight, including the expansion of vegan food options in the meals provided by the school and calls for more gender-neutral bathrooms.

Students explained that while there is a gender-neutral bathroom on the Longfellow campus, it is in the front office and requires permission from an adult to use. They emphasized the importance of making students who identify as transgender and non-binary feel safe at school.

The Board also heard advocacy from teachers and community members opposing construction at certain BUSD schools.

One such speaker was Longfellow Middle School teacher Forest Borie, who criticized ongoing renovations at Longfellow, especially the district’s plans to install an artificial grass field.

“It’s been a really undemocratic process,” Borie said. “I cannot recall anybody ever coming onto our campus and talking to staff and students about what we actually want to see changed on our campus.”

Borie was followed by Erika Englund, a fourth grade teacher at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School.

Englund voiced her appreciation for campus modernization efforts being undertaken at Sylvia Mendez but expressed concern over how the plan for learning during construction would be carried out.

“There’ll be a dire lack of outdoor space. Almost all of our current yard will be covered in portables. Where will the kids have recess? Where will we do P.E.?” Englund said.

The board also heard from speakers representing the district’s climate literacy group, who celebrated the success of a high school climate fair, and other efforts to expand climate education.

BUSD Board Vice President Ana Vasudeo noted that ten BUSD campuses will be celebrating “Bike to School Day” on May 18.

“As we know, the transportation sector is the leading sector contributing to greenhouse gas emissions,” Vasudeo said. “So sustainable transportation plays an important role in helping us become a more climate resilient community.”

A speaker representing the Special Education Services Board presented their budget overview as well. The speaker highlighted the Special Education Service’s goal of providing a robust multi-tiered system of support to special education students in the district.

The Board heard from many different groups and individuals over the course of the meeting, with discussions of climate related issues recurring throughout. Several members of the Board also expressed their appreciation for the relatively large number of students who came to speak.

Contact Andrew Green at 


MAY 07, 2023