On June 15, the Berkeley School Board unanimously voted to add a third enrollment zone for Longfellow Middle School, in an effort to desegregate the BUSD public middle schools. The policy will take effect at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
In a BUSD press release from June 16, 2022, former Superintendent Brent Stephens wrote, “The Three Zone model, which ensures that our three middle schools are diverse and integrated, divides the city into three middle school attendance zones, similar to our current elementary school assignment model, with Sylvia Mendez Elementary School feeding into Longfellow Middle School.”
Longfellow Middle School was previously a “choice” school, with Berkeley divided into two zones for Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and Willard Middle School. Under this policy, the school has had a disproportionately large share of Black and Latino students. The third zone will be located in the middle of Berkeley, bringing students from the hills, South Berkeley, and central Berkeley to Longfellow.
However, there are still decisions concerning these district developments. Stephens stated, “As part of the vote, the Board of Education instructed BUSD staff to bring back to the Board additional thinking related to middle school transportation and programs. These presentations to the Board will take place during the coming academic year and could inform the Board’s decisions about budget and policy.”
Ori Boozaglo, a sophomore at BHS and Longfellow alumna, also described students’ impression of Longfellow, as well as how she believed these new policies would benefit the district.
“Amongst kids, a lot of the time, there’s this stereotype about Longfellow being more ethnically diverse and with less funding,” Boozaglo said. “At the end of the day, there’s going to be more diversity and a mix of people at every school (with this policy).”
Toby Jacobson-Bell, a junior who went to King, explained the impact of diversity on broadening students’ understanding of the world, exposing them to new experiences and conversations.
“Diversity is important because it allows you to make all kinds of friends and meet different people,” Jacobson-Bell said.
While in support of the diversity created by the new policy, Jacobson-Bell also explained the negative repercussions for families who live far away, and will be forced to commute to the school.
“Kids from South Berkeley going all the way to King is going to be hard, especially if the parents are preoccupied, and same with kids from the hills going to Longfellow,” Jacobson-Bell said. “It’s a good idea but there should still be some choice. Not every family can have a 40 minute round trip commute everyday just for school.”
Boozaglo expressed her optimism that issues like these could eventually be resolved with the help of resources from the district.
“There’s things that can happen to make it work out for everyone,” Boozaglo said. “I feel like BUSD has the resources to make it less of an inconvenience for people to get to school.”
Jessica Hipona is a sophomore and serves as the BHS Commissioner of Multicultural Affairs. She added that the extent of the policy’s impact will be seen in the future years, partially depending on how the district responds to any concerns.
“The effect of this will really depend on how each school goes about showing and emphasizing that diversity, and how the district handles people who may have difficulty going to and from school,” Hipona said.