Berkeley High School’s safety and evacuation procedures are under the microscope after a pair of student fights made headlines in the opening weeks of school and a spate of false fire alarms rattled students and staff in late-September and early-October.
The high school’s entire administrative team appeared before the board Wednesday night to report improvements in discipline and intervention procedures and to discuss a new fire evacuation plan.
“Our mission is to make sure that our students can succeed and be safe,” said Dean of Students Meg Matan, who handles disciplinary matters.
Matan said Hal Thomas, a new administrator of the high school’s on-campus suspension program, known as the intervention center, has made great strides in working with disruptive students and getting at the root of their difficulties.
“He’s extremely kind with the students up there,” Matan said. “He’s focused.”
High school officials also touted a system of gate closures that, they say, has improved order on campus. But Andy Turner, the student representative on the board, said strict closures have led to frustration among his peers.
“There are a lot of students who are occasionally tardy, including myself,” he said. The gate closures, Turner said, extend a two-minute tardiness into a 15-minute tardiness by requiring students to walk all the way around to the other side of campus.
Turner called on administrators to provide better notification to students about which gates are closed at what times so they can get to class more swiftly.
School administrators also said a new fire evacuation plan is in place and praised students for dealing patiently with an increasingly bothersome number of false alarms in recent weeks.
A series of roughly 10 false fire alarms began Sept. 26 and stretched through the middle of last week. Berkeley High has apprehended and suspended eight students involved and administrators plan to pursue expulsion in at least some cases.
The Berkeley Police Department arrested six of the eight students who pulled alarms, according to department spokesperson Officer Mary Kusmiss. The students will likely face verbal counseling with Officer Roosevelt “Rosie” Brown, assigned to the high school by the department.
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