Overenrollment in BHS Classes

September 1999

We recently were distressed by BHS method of dealing with overenrollment of 9th grade AP geometry. In an effort to be fair, they randomly selected students (my daughter was one) and withdrew them from their current AP geometry class, rearranged other classes in order to put them in the less enrolled AP geometry class and said "sorry, you have no power," when I went in to complain.

It is three weeks into the semester, my daughter had to drop her favorit e class (which is dance in PE--which doesn't rank as being as important as academics, but which she totally loved) and rearranged her schedule. I spent two hours trying to figure this out with the counselor, but to no avail. All the classes my daughter would like to take are "All full now." This is really frustrating.

Couldn't they see this coming? Did it suddenly overenroll? Didn't kids have to pass a test LAST year to get in? Why is it suddenly a crisis-- Forcing kids to rearranged their schedules and taking away a class that they are really happy in doesn't seem like a great thing to do to kids. Any suggestion on how to handle this? How do other parents and kids feel who also got bumped from their classes?

Anne (9/99)

It seems to me that the district has a really big problem in their "demographics" department: BHS is overenrolled, causing over 350 students to have their schedules messed up, Willard is underenrolled, causing teachers to be transferred out of the school and a bunch more students to have their schedules messed up, and, as usual, the elementary schools had their enrollments changed at the last minute, causing the rearrangement of classrooms, split classes, and the hiring of teachers the day before school started. I realize that we're public and it's hard to predict who will come, etc., but it seems no one is monitoring demographics on the district-wide level.

As to the particular question of the BHS geometry classes, here's another piece of the picture: my daughter was supposed to be in Honors Geometry, but when she got her schedule at freshman orientation, it was so messed up that we spent four hours in line waiting to see a counselor to have it fixed. We finally talked with Kirk Black, the Freshman Dean, who was very nice once we got to him. However, when I asked how it could be that my child 's schedule was such a mess (wrong math, no language, not enough classes, wrong electives--I mean really a mess) considering that she filled out the thing last March, he said he assumed her schedule has just gotten lost and she'd been programmed into a "generic" freshman program on the assumption that it would need to be fixed "later."

When he did put her into a geometry class, I happened to notice his computer screen: "This class should have 28 students, it already has 37 students enrolled. Are you sure you want to add another one?" Yup, he added her, and mentioned that he thought they would need to open a few more sections of geometry (he'd already passed by another geometry section in our quest for a schedule; I assume that section had even more than 38 students in it). I don't understand how they could have been that far off on their estimates in this particular set of classes without noticing it, unless, as I suspect, even though the kids had to fill out their schedules in the spring, no one looked at them until the day or two before classes, at which point they needed to go looking for extra classrooms and teachers, finding them several weeks into the school year.

I had a similar frustrating experience. My daughter did not get into AP English, even though according to UC rules, she had scored high enough for a college class. I tried to talk to Mike Hassett, the English Department Chair. He wouldn't return my phone calls. My husband talked to the principal. She just said "Too bad, no room."

My daughter had the choice of taking regular English, taking a distance learning class from Stanford (very expensive), or going to Vista. She chose Vista. That is working out okay, but her schedule is a mess.

The school had alternatives, from my point of view. They could have put more kids in the classes, then hired a reader to take some of the pressure off of the teacher. They could have started an honors English class. They could have let some kids take the class Fall semester, others in the Spring. But it was as if the whole thing was written in concrete.

Hi everyone...

Just a response to the concern about students having their schedule changed... Yes, we did plan for this... we looked at 10 YEARS of data on growth at BHS and determined that it would be approximately 150 - 200 new students... This was done collaboratively - Charleen Calvert, Cathy James and I... but we were wrong... NOONE knew that we would see alomost 500 students and only drop 185... We even had registration for new students available ALL SUMMER and we only got 82 students...BUT from September 1st - 7th we were inundated...We have planned to handle the additional (and anticipated) 100 students but we had not planned on handling 400 more...Everyone regrets the inconvenice and disruption this has caused our school, students and staff...If there are suggestions about what we might do next year... please let me know... we will again try to estimate growth and will surely take into account a contingency plan for 400-5000 new students...any other ideas? T.
Theresa Saunders (Principal)

it appears that this year is just a continuation of what i consider the root of BHS problems- there are just too many kids, and not enough staff to deal with the situation. I have experienced variations on all the themes mentioned as my daughter made her way through BH - she graduated 99 and i have several years before i will be back again- and i honestly feel that the real solution would be creating another high school.

I realize this is a huge undertaking- but if we look down the road, there are going to be more and more kids each year during this baby boom #2 period, and as we all know, the numbers are not just coming from Berkeley. Up to a point, the school can, with better planning, create more classes to accomodate, but eventually they will run out of physical space- from what i hear, they already have- and who really believes that a school this size can really give the kind of individual attention that our kids need- or even group attention?? Especially the attention needed by the non AP kids! At any rate, I have not thought this through but wondered if others were feeling the same way. I must say that i am not looking forward to sending my son there in 2 years time, given the feedback i am reading!!
Lynn (10/99)

Some of us find it hard to believe that 400 legal Berkeley residents came into Berkeley High School to register after Sept. 1st. Since all students in the district schools are already registered or their numbers should be antipated and private school parents enroll their students early, where did these 400 new students come from?

We all know that there is an endemic problem in the Berkeley School District that students from any other district are welcome with no questions. Right from the Superintendent's Office is the message that the District wants to ADA for every student we can get, no matter where they live. We also all know the the State ADA does not pay for anyone's education in Berkeley. Berkeley residents have taxed themselves twice to pay for buildings and education of our students. We pay the highest property tax rate in California to support our schools. In addition, parents volunteer hundreds of hours, fund raise and pay for many of the activities that attract students to the Berkeley Schools, activities and classes that neighboring districts do not offer. That's what covers the education of Berkeley students and the additional ADA for out-of-district kids is not worth the money that ADA pays considering the havoc is clauses in our schools at all levels.

Starting in the elementary schools, out-of -distict kids are enrolled without proper documentation and no one can find their parents or guardians for an emergency or to address problems because their registrations were not adequately screened in the first place. Berkeley does not have an obligation to take every child from the surrounding school districts. You won't find Piedmont doing that! We have an obligation to take those that can be legally documented, have particular circumstances, and others of the basis of space availability.

I have raised this issue with School Board members and would like to see them address this problem of enforcing an appropriate district policy, and adequately screening documentation on new students so that our schools are not overcrowded.

Anonymous (10/99)

Over-enrollment from another perspective

While working with Mayor Elihu Harris in Oakland, I facilitated a public meeting in downtown. Several attenders complained that they couldn't find close, free, on-street parking, because all the spaces were filled. The Mayor responded: "from my perspective, that's a good problem for Oakland to have! We want more people downtown!"

Remembering that, I feel similarly about the over-enrollment problem in BUSD - "it's a good problem to have" when more people want to get in to our public schools than out. I sympathize with the students who are being affected right now, and Principal Saunder's immediate challenge to reorganize. However, I believe the great performance reviews about Principal Saunders over the past year has influenced many parents to try sending their children to our public school. This is really actually wonderful news! Hopefully, Principal Saunders can work out this problem satisfactorily, and plan ahead for another "over-enrollment" next year! Go BHS!

Iris (10/99)