Photograph by Allyn Suzuki

Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) recently altered its policy regarding sports, and has begun allowing Berkeley Technology Academy (BTA, more commonly known as B-Tech) students to play for the BHS football team. 

BTA is “A continuation high school diploma program designed to meet the needs of students sixteen through eighteen years of age who have not graduated from high school, are not exempt from compulsory school attendance, and are deemed at risk of not completing their education,” as stated by BUSD.

BTA students are separated from Berkeley High School (BHS) students, as their campus is located at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Derby Street, six blocks south of the main BHS campus.

Discussions about whether to implement this policy began last spring. However, the policy required state approval, which is why it was not put into place until this fall. The application of this rule was further delayed for logistical reasons. BTA and BHS had to assign someone to monitor BTA student’s attendance to ensure that no ineligible players were accidentally permitted to played.

Although this new rule will directly impact sports teams at BHS, it was initially put into place to improve academic performance.

BTA allows students to earn more credit than they can at BHS. However, prior to the rule, some students refused to transfer because it would mean they could not play BHS sports. The hope is that this policy will also further incentivize BTA students to maintain a higher GPA. Students with a GPA below a 2.0 are ineligible to play sports, and their participation can lead to the given team being forced to forfeit.

While this policy applies to all sports, the BHS football team has fully taken advantage of it.

Jahil Kelly, one of the BTA students currently playing on the BHS football team, said the only difference in going to BTA and playing for the BHS team is that he doesn’t get to spend as much time with his teammates.

Regarding other BTA students getting involved in BHS sports, Kelly said, “There are definitely some people who want to play sports, some of whom already do, but I think those who choose not to play just don’t feel like they have time to invest like that.”

Fernando Cazares III, a 12th grader currently at BHS, transferred to BTA last year for his second semester. Cazares believes that, “there are students at B-Tech interested in playing football, baseball, basketball and other sports.” He said that what may be holding them back is that they aren’t fully aware that they can participate in some cases. The rule change was only made active this year, so it may require some time for BTA students to become fully aware of their new ability. “Most of these students  are very talented at these sports, and by not playing for a BHS team their talent is not being used. It’s a missed opportunity for these students, and for the school,” Cazares said.  While going to B-Tech hasn’t altered his experience playing football, Cazeras says that he misses his classmates at BHS. Cazares is incredibly grateful for this change, as it allows him to play the sport he has loved since he was little with his teammates, who he considers brothers.

While only a few athletes have taken advantage of this policy so far, as we transition into winter sports we can expect to see more and more athletes taking advantage of this rule.

BHS has always had a strong athletic program,  and both BTA and BHS stand to benefit from this policy. If the policy accomplishes what it is supposed to, BTA students will have an additional incentive to remain academically engaged, and BHS will strengthen their already impressive athletic program.