The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board met Wednesday to discuss updates for improvements on AC Transit, multilingual learning and teaching concerns relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
AC Transit external affairs representative Ryan Lau discussed Realign, an evaluation of the transit’s routes and schedules in an attempt to redesign services after the pandemic. Lau noted that AC Transit faces difficulties staffing bus operators, increasing ridership and adjusting to rider habits after the pandemic.
AC Transit offered several transit coverage scenarios that could better the experience of their riders. The balanced coverage scenario includes improved access to various destinations and new coverage in high transit demand areas, according to Samah Itani, Lau’s planning colleague.
The frequent service scenario prioritizes frequent service in dense areas where every route could be serviced every thirty minutes, seven days a week. This scenario would improve frequency, simplify routes and improve reliability, Itani said. In the unconstrained vision scenario, riders would experience frequent service and expanded coverage.
“This is the unconstrained scenario, it is more of everything everywhere,” Itani said. “This is a visionary scenario, while AC Transit does not have the resources in terms of bus operators or funding to achieve this vision today, it can be used to advocate for more resources and represents our vision of what’s possible when funding for public transit is a priority.”
The Multilingual Learner Master Plan, approved Dec. 14 last year, defines the district’s policies and expectations for the standards of education for multilingual learners, or ELs. The project serves as a roadmap to resources available to students, parents and staff, said director of curriculum and instruction Chris Albeck.
The Master Plan aims to aid ELs to develop “full receptive and productive proficiencies” in English within a five-to-seven-year window. The Master Plan hopes to boost academic success for ELs by ensuring they have access to a rigorous and inclusive curriculum that builds upon the backgrounds of students, according to teacher on special assignment, or TSA, Kathleen Marte.
Mathew Espinosa-Castro, director of the equity, achievement and belonging department, noted the importance of creating a “safe, welcoming, inclusive” environment for not only students but their families. In collaboration with family workshops such as ¡Adelante! or community organizations such as Latinos Unidos de Berkeley, ELs and their families have an opportunity to showcase their academic success and discuss the next steps for college.
Additionally, the Board heard opposing opinions from faculty and parents on whether or not to teach about Palestine in the classroom. President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers Matt Meyer noted the importance of teachers having difficult conversations with their students, even those that include different opinions.
Meyer read a quote from BUSD board policy stating that the district believes in opportunities to discuss controversial issues with students to help them discriminate between fact and fiction and promote critical thinking.
“(Teachers) should help students learn how to gather and organize pertinent facts, discriminate between fact and fiction, draw intelligent conclusions and respect the opinions of others,” Meyer said. “Instructional policy on controversial issues is hereby stated by the board in order to protect teachers and school administrators from unwarranted attack by pressure groups and to ensure youth a well-balanced education.”
In the last few weeks, Meyer said the teaching profession has been “under attack.”
Teachers feel nervous to talk about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and they have received complaints for signs or activism they do on their own time, Meyer added.
“What do I do if I’m in a history classroom talking about colonialism and a student says, does this apply to my family in Palestine? Am I to lie to them?” said Berkeley High School history teacher Alex Day.
Meyer noted that the diversity and opinion of every student must be respected, and conversations should not be stifled so that teachers can continue to support their students’ educational journeys.