There are about 300 students at Berkeley High who live outside the city but have received permits to attend BHS. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
There are about 300 students at Berkeley High who live outside the city but have received permits to attend BHS. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

After approving a new admissions and enrollment policy in June aimed to curtail the illegal enrollment of out-of-district students, the Berkeley School Board is set to receive a report at tonight’s meeting that sums up district efforts this year related to residency and inter-district permits.

According to the staff report prepared for the Nov. 4, board meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District has enrolled 9,880 students for the 2015-16 year. That includes 1,525 students who enrolled in the district for the first time and had to comply with the new rules.

The new board policy requires students seeking admission to BUSD to provide three “proofs of residency” and a declaration form stating that Berkeley is the family’s home district.

Earlier this year, the new policy required the families of all fifth-graders to prove their residency before being allowed to register for middle school, according to the district. This school year, eighth-graders will have to comply with the district’s admission policy before being allowed to register for classes at Berkeley High, according tonight’s staff report.

As part of its effort to confirm the residency of Berkeley students for the 2015-16 school year, district staff visited nearly 600 homes, and found 113 students who were not living within the city limits.

Home visits for the 2015-16 school year. Source: BUSD
Home visits for the 2015-16 school year. Source: BUSD

According to the staff report, from Assistant Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi, “The address verifications have been conducted throughout Berkeley, Oakland and West Contra Costa. The accompanying map indicates where bulk of the address verifications have taken place.”

That’s an increase from 2014-15, when the district reported 477 home visits. As a result of those visits, 80 students were asked to leave the district as they were not living in Berkeley.

The district reports that, of about 708 fifth-graders enrolled in the 2014-15 school year, 44 did not submit proofs of Berkeley residency, and thus matriculated elsewhere.

“These families were informed in writing, via personal phone calls and communications from the elementary schools to provide the necessary documents to enroll in BUSD middle schools,” according to Scuderi’s report. The district also had its admissions office open during two Saturdays in January to accommodate working families.

The district does issue inter-district permits to students from outside Berkeley who apply and are accepted into the school district.

There are currently 764 students attending BUSD schools with these permits, including 261 in elementary school, 202 in middle school and 301 in high school.

For the current school year, 76 new students were admitted on the permits, including 57 who are children of BUSD employees. Of the new students, 36 came in at the kindergarten or pre-k level.

Eleven went to families who already had children in Berkeley schools and eight were granted “due to extenuating circumstances.”

The district denied 269 inter-district requests, including 112 at the elementary school level, 40 from middle-schoolers and 117 at the high school level. Forty-five of the students who were denied attended Berkeley schools last year, while the rest were new requests.

The staff report also includes numbers for Berkeley students who asked for inter-district permits to attend schools outside the city, which numbered 112: 33 in elementary school, 24 in middle school and 55 in high school.

Tonight’s report is an information item and, as such, is not scheduled for action or discussion.

The question of illegal enrollment of students in Berkeley schools has long plagued BUSD and other strong school districts in close proximity to under-performing districts. A study done 10 years ago by a UC Berkeley graduate student interning at BUSD estimated that 10% to 12% of the students enrolled did not live in Berkeley. The study, which was never formally embraced by the school administration or school board, also concluded that the illegally enrolled students were a net financial boon for the district. The students brought in more money from the state in Average Daily Attendance funds than cost the district in BSEP funds, according to the report.

Berkeleyside reported in depth on the issue of illegal enrollment in 2014, and the article drew 375 comments — one indication of how strongly families feel about the question.

See the full staff report under Item 14.1 on the Nov. 4 agenda. See what else in on the agenda. The next School Board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 18.

BUSD poised to adopt tougher school enrollment policy (05.08.15)
School board votes on short-term overcrowding solutions (01.15.15)
Berkeley School Board primer: Decision time for board on overcrowding (01.14.15)
Berkeley School Board primer: Discussion of overcrowding solutions continues (12.10.14)
School Board considers options for tackling student surge (11.13.14)
Illegal enrollment is boon and burden to Berkeley schools (04.08.14)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...