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Teachers Plan School Redesign

The BHS redesign began in 2015 and is scheduled to be implemented for incoming ninth graders in the fall of 2018. The redesign aims to allow for an increase in community-building and communication between teachers and students by creating a “universal” ninth grade comprised of “houses.”

The houses will include four core teachers and approximately 120 students who will share english, history, math, and science classes.

Originally the plan included a seven-period day, including an advisory period and increased access to teachers for students interested or in need of help.

However, according to the design team, the additional period would cost $1.3 to $1.6 million and was eventually cut from the redesign plans. Currently, a six-period modified block schedule is supposed to be implemented instead.

  As the project progressed, the structure of the design team changed. The project was originally headed by Hasmig Minassian and Tamara Friedman, though Friedman stepped down when promoted to vice principal and was replaced by Matt Meyer.

The design team began as a forty-member group comprised of students, teachers, parents, and others. However, according to Meyer, the team eventually transitioned into “An executive board that’s made up of around twelve people,” who each address different aspects of the plan.

The board is made up of teachers, administrators, and few students.

In the current structure of the design team, each board member has a team of people that may include parents and other students to advise and inform them of various topics regarding their section of the plan.

Meyer said that the “Group of twelve meets often to discuss the changes that are happening for the school and the plan, but each of those groups is meeting with a wider group of people.”

The project is intended to have a multitude of effects on the BHS community and educational system.

Minassian said that part of a better learning environment is  “When teachers are talking to each other, when teachers and students are building relationships with one another, and when students are challenged academically,” which is the purpose of the new house system.

Minassian says that improving student and teacher relationships will create “An environment that is focused on being anti-racist, culturally relevant, academically rigorous, and really getting at the heart of what research says is good for kids.”

According to Meyer, the universal ninth grade is a way to create community in BHS. Meyer said that this will “Strengthen a positive school culture where ninth graders see themselves as being part of Berkeley High first and foremost before they’re sidled off into different programs and small schools.”

The lottery process for small learning community placement will undergo adjustment and take place when students are entering tenth grade.

In regards to changes to the lottery system,  Meyer said that it will have to undergo many changes, as it will no longer take place while students are in middle school, so students will no longer choose small learning communities under the guidance of eigth grade teachers and counselors.

Additionally, Meyer said that the process of designing the redesign will be “More intentional on how students are getting into different programs.”

Small learning communities will continue accepting sixty incoming sophomores each year, and, according to Minassian, are some of the parts of the Berkeley High current structure that the redesign is attempting to recreate across the campus.

She said that extending the “Personalization of small schools” to the entire campus is a way to support education and to say, “‘We believe in this philosophy as a school, and we want all kids to have it.’”

Overall, according to Minassian, the redesign is about “Trying to figure out what the will of the staff is, what the will of the students is, and what the research says, and trying to apply that in some practical terms.”