Berkeley High’s ninth-grade program could see some major changes. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
Berkeley High’s ninth-grade program could see some major changes. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Freshman year at Berkeley High School might undergo a major overhaul in a couple years, and the public can hear all about it at three community meetings this week. The first is tonight, May 8, at 7 p.m. at King Middle School.

The proposed BHS redesign would make the ninth grade “universal” beginning in 2018-19. All 800 or so freshmen would take the same four core classes. Currently, students divide into small school communities and separate academic programs starting on day one.

The redesign would group all students into small “houses.” They would take classes with others in their house, and each house would have four dedicated teachers. Classes would meet less frequently but for longer periods of time, and teachers would get a period to collaborate with each other.

Most BHS teachers support the redesign, and advocates say it could reduce disparities by setting all students off on the same foot with a shared academic foundation. Others say students should be able to choose the academic program that best fits their needs from the beginning. The proposal has gotten some pushback from small school teachers, who say the redesign would remove an important year from their programs.

The redesign is expected to cost $500,000-$600,000 a year. New ninth-grade teachers will be hired if it passes.

The overhaul has been in discussion for over a year, and the Berkeley School Board gave it an initial green light in February. District staff will come back to the board with a final proposal on May 17, and the board will vote on the plan in June.

The community meetings are open to anyone, but they will fittingly be held at Berkeley’s three middle schools. Students at those schools could make up the inaugural class to experience the new ninth-grade program.

See the Berkeleyside story on the redesign and the BUSD webpage on the process.

Meeting details

  • Monday, May 8, 7 p.m., King Middle School auditorium, 1781 Rose St.
  • Tuesday, May 9, 7 p.m., Longfellow Middle School cafeteria, 1500 Derby St. (English and Spanish)
  • Thursday, May 11, 7 p.m., Willard Middle School auditorium, 2425 Stuart St.
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Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...