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.