On Thursday, October 24, the Berkeley School Board voted to relocate Oxford Elementary School to West Campus, the former location of the Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement Charter School (REALM), following the discovery of seismic safety hazards at the current location. While its campus is being remodeled in order to ensure its students’ safety, the school will temporarily be moved to West Campus. The school was already scheduled to have renovations in the near future, the last in a long list of renovations across the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) elementary schools. This meant that the Oxford community was expecting some degree of disruption.
Darryl Collins is the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president at Oxford Elementary School. The PTA acts as a liaison between the school and the community, and in this complicated situation, Collins has one clear purpose: “My number one priority as PTA president is to make sure that the community is equitable and inclusive, so I want every family to have a voice in the community,” Collins said. Eight families have decided to leave Oxford, some accusing the district of putting their children in danger. “I think those families made a tough decision … and they’re still a part of our Oxford Community,” said Collins.
West Campus will be modified to accommodate the new students with updated classrooms, a new library, and a remodeled playground. The district has been planning on renovating Oxford since 2016, although the plan has grown significantly since the discovery of the extent of the safety hazards.
The district had already allocated funds to make renovations to Oxford, some of which will be used for the preparation of West Campus and relocation of the school. According to School Board Vice President Ty Alper, “the temporary relocation will cost significantly less than the planned renovation at Oxford.” REALM Charter School closed down in the spring of 2019, and the district had “already planned to use the West Campus space as a temporary space for elementary school students, so it is perfect,” said Alper.
As of now, the plan is to relocate to West Campus temporarily, and the community will return to Oxford after renovations are finished.
Collins is currently a first grade parent at Oxford, and his daughter is “really excited to move to a new site.” For many students, it will be a major shift in how they get to school, seeing as West Campus is located two miles away from Oxford. This will mean that some families who can walk to Oxford may have to use the bus system or drive to get to school. Collins’s family lives closer to West Campus, meaning his daughter will be able to walk to school. “I can’t speak for every family, but I know my family is really excited,” said Collins.
Looking towards the future, Collins and his family are optimistic about the relocation. “Whether or not we stay permanently, or get a brand new, seismically-upgraded Oxford in the hills, I think this is a win-win no matter what happens,” Collins said.
As of now, the plan is to relocate to West Campus temporarily, and the community will return to Oxford after renovations are finished. Alper said: “We are taking this one step at a time, and will decide what to do with the Oxford site once we have students and staff moved out in time for the start of school next year.”
Oxford students will spend their 2020-21 school year at West Campus. Although some Oxford families are skeptical about the change, Collins said: “Change is opportunity; it’s [going to] be a lot of fun.”