After I wrote about the approved compromise deal in the Berkeley High science lab flap, commenter Maureen Burke replied, “Color me unimpressed… This new procedure is cumbersome and most kids are being steered to not sign up for science labs. And guess what? Next year we will hear that there was no demand for science labs after all and they will be eliminated.”

From my reading of the tea leaves, Burke may be right. Here’s the text of an email BHS parents just received on signing up for the labs:

Science labs for Advanced Biology, Chemistry, and Physics will be included in the regular class time.  If students in these classes wish to take a separate enhancement/support lab course before or after school they may sign up for one. The class meets one day per week and students earn one credit for participation. Information about the lab support course was included in the course catalog and counselors provided information and the opportunity to sign up for it during course scheduling.

I know from my sample of one BHS student, the idea of signing up for an additional, wholly optional class (which could be, like this year, at 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon), is very unappealing. I can’t repeat on a family-friendly website his response that chemistry lab was a requirement in our household.

Add to that the very marginal encouragement I read in today’s email — here’s some “enhancement” or “support”, but it’s no biggie if you don’t do it. I suspect only a minority of households will read that email and say to their student, “You really should do the extra lab.”

Here’s an alternative email that might have done a better job of ensuring continued support for extra science labs:

Understanding science is both fundamental for our students and for our society. We are fortunate at Berkeley High to have a great science program, with an excellent record of achievement. The school board has secured extra funds to provide additional science labs for BHS students, which should provide them even better academic preparation. We encourage your student to sign up for the additional labs. Use them or lose them.

Photo by Horia Varlan from Flickr

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...