Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Berkeley Schools Spend $85 Million on Construction, More on the Way

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group

A crisis in education funding? You wouldn't know it in Berkeley's public schools. 

The 9,000-student district is in the midst of a building boom not seen in at least 10 years to the tune of about $85 million and funded by generous Berkeley property owners. 

Since the Loma Prieta earthquake spurred Berkeley voters to fund construction for creaky old schools 23 years ago, the district has collected a half-billion dollars in taxes for construction, said school district spokesman Mark Coplan. 

The result is that right now, Berkeley school construction projects are just about everywhere you look. 

Berkeley High School alone, with over 3,000 students, is benefiting from over $48 million in construction projects currently under way. The larger projects at the campus include a $9 million football stadium, a $3.7 million baseball field, $30.4 million for 15 new classrooms, a new softball field and new football field bleachers and nearly $1 million for three new science labs. 

The baseball field a few blocks from the school on Derby Street is one of the most important behind the 15 new classrooms "because it has been on people's radar for a long time," said Lew Jones, director of facilities for the Berkeley school district. 

Named after former baseball coach Tim Mollering who died of cancer in early 2010, Mollering Field has been talked about for at least 15 years and is finally under construction. 

For years, Berkeley High has played its baseball games on a field in San Pablo Park, which has no outfield fence. 

Coplan said another project in the design phase that will have a major impact on the district is the $7.7 million classroom expansion project at Jefferson Elementary School on Ada Street. 

"Jefferson will impact the whole district because it will help us to better distribute our students," Coplan said. 

He said the increase in classroom space at the school will help take pressure off it and other elementary schools that are overcrowded. 

Other notable projects underway include: 

* A $14.7 million project at the West Campus building on University Avenue that includes new administration offices and two teacher training classrooms. 

* A $6.7 million project also at West Campus that includes new classrooms for the REALM charter school. 

* $2 million for a new school board meeting room, also at West Campus. 

* A $1.2 million project to replace the roof and add solar panels to Berkeley Arts Magnate School. 

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.

1 comment:

  1. Well how great. Though not for the residents of the W. campus neighborhood. Despite the millions the BUSD is putting into all the W. Campus construction, they can't seem to take care of an issue as small as fixing the lighting around their property so that it doesn't create a serious risk of crime for neighborhood residents. I say this as a resident that has made numerous requests that they do so.
    And hey, how about that construction? Well let's see, I was woken up on this beautiful Saturday by the rumbling and beeping of a fleet of semi trucks delivering stacks of construction materials to W. campus parking lot. And now I get to spend the day listening to construction noise. DId I already mention this is Saturday and I've had to listen to this noise the past 5 days? And for many other weeks over the past several months.
    BUSD has not bothered to let anyone in the area know that they would be doing this incredibly intrusive work on weekends. How silly to think I might sleep in on a Saturday!
    They can spend millions on massive construction every day of the week, but can't even fix the timers on the lights on their property so that they turn on at night, (when it's dark!)instead of staying on all day (when it's light!).
    And this is an educational organization?