Kindergartner Eva Kale, 5, tries out a new piece of playground equipment at Pattengill Elementary School in Berkley Thursday, Aug. 29.

Kindergartner Eva Kale, 5, tries out a new piece of playground equipment at Pattengill Elementary School in Berkley Thursday, Aug. 29.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Ferndale, Berkley schools see changes in classrooms, buildings

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 30, 2019


FERNDALE/BERKLEY — School is back in session for the thousands of students in the Ferndale and Berkley school districts.

For both districts, each is bringing something new for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

In Berkley, many of the schools and buildings have seen some improvement due in part to a sinking fund that voters passed last year. The fund levies 3 mills on property within the school district for 10 years, generating $3 million a year to pay for projects.

Among the more notable changes are the construction and additions made at three playgrounds at elementary schools in the district. Those schools are Rogers Elementary, Pattengill Elementary and Norup International.

Before the new playground equipment was installed, improvements to the drains were conducted at each location, Deputy Superintendent for Finance, Facilities and Operations Larry Gallagher said.

“When it had a decent rain there, it got pretty sloppy for a bit, so we’re very happy that we’ve been able to improve the drainage as a precursor to the playgrounds,” he said.

The new playground equipment came after the district began looking at what improvements could be made after its bond ended and the sinking fund began, Gallagher said.

“What are the immediate things we can improve upon for the kids?” he said. “Of those three schools, playgrounds were up there because the playgrounds before we did these improvements were OK, but not what you wanted it to be.”

Aside from the playgrounds, the roofs of Angell Elementary, Pattengill Elementary and the Building Blocks School also were completed. More roofs will be done next summer.

New computers also were purchased for instructional uses at many of the schools, Gallagher said.

“We got those in the hands of our teachers and students, and just a pretty decent amount going to our special education staff and students as well,” he said. “It’s pretty much spread throughout the district in the classrooms.”

While there weren’t any major construction projects within Ferndale Schools, the district did introduce two programs aimed at helping students in the classroom.

The first is Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, which aims to help students who might be doing well in school but are going through school under the radar.

“They’re not demonstrating skills that show that they’re advanced, but they also don’t need additional support,” Superintendent Dania Bazzi said. “The thing is, it’s not because they don’t have the ability. They have the ability, but they need that space that allows them to develop study skills, collaborative skills, writing skills, learning skills that will allow them to be successful in Advanced Placement and honors courses.”

Students would have to apply to the program, which is its own elective class. The course starts in seventh and eighth grades, and students who participate will be placed in a cohort and stay together studying through each grade all the way to senior year.

“Within that class, the teacher is using the AVID curriculum, which provides collaborative curriculum, allows for tutoring, allows for a support system to be in place so that they’re able to deal with more challenging topics,” Bazzi said. “It’s raising the expectations for students within that class.”

The other program is a partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools, a nonprofit organization that works with schools to help increase minority and low-income participation in Advanced Placement courses.

The partnership is for three years, as Bazzi said the district is committed to reducing the opportunity gap.

“There is less minority representation in AP and honors courses, and so this partnership is going to help us address that,” she said.

Bazzi said the first year would be a year of professional learning and discovery, and collecting data from a staff and student survey about the types of AP courses the district is offering.

“AP Calculus and AP Chemistry might speak to some of our students, and those are certainly good AP classes that we want to continue to run, but are there other AP classes that students have a different interest in and we’re simply not offering them?” she said. “So (we’re) looking at our program as a whole and how we can ensure that all students have access to the wonderful programming.”