On August 15, the first day of school at Berkeley High School, students arriving late to school were greeted with a surprise — all but one of the entry gates were locked at 10:01 a.m. Time for a walk up the block.
All students arriving after the gates close in the morning and after lunch have to check in with their student ID cards at the main office on Allston Street. This is not a new policy. It was first implemented in October 2021, in response to an incident where a gun was brought onto campus by an adult.
What has changed, however, is the time the gates close. Last year, the gates were closed and locked around 10 minutes after the start of first period, whereas now they close as the second bell rings. In addition, an administrator and school safety officer are now present at every open gate.
One of the main reasons the new gate policy is unpopular is because of the long lines to the main office, which can cause waits of up to 20 minutes on certain days. This leads students to miss even more class than they would have if the other gates remained open for longer, as junior Sofia Weidler shared.
“You’ll be a minute late and then end up being 20 minutes late because you’re waiting in line,” Weidler said.
Ariel Kehat, a sophomore, experienced this firsthand. “I got to school at around 8:35 a.m. So five minutes late. And (there’s) this massive line that goes on around the block,” he said.
According to BHS principal Juan Raygoza, these decisions were made in an effort to increase campus safety and hold students accountable for being on time.
“This summer, my administration team and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about (BHS’ culture),” Raygoza said. ”There are so many things that make BHS so wonderful and there are also some things that allow students to fall through the cracks. And one of those things — we believe — is that a lot of our students are not in class and not where they’re supposed to be at all times.”
According to Cassandra Tesch, dean of attendance, students need to be held to a high standard.
“When you have a job, and when you’re going to college, you need to be on time,” Tesch said. “So if we just let you come late, we’re not holding a high expectation for you. Part of our goal as a school is to support you with strategies that help you be successful in the real world.”
According to Tesch, between the first and second weeks of school, tardies increased by 2 percent at the start of school and by 6 percent after lunch for fourth period. These numbers equate to around 100 students arriving late to their classes each day. Around 600 students had more than two tardies per period the second week of school.
Safety is also on the minds of administrators — weapons were brought onto campus last year by non-BHS students, giving rise to the safety precaution that requires anyone who arrives after the bell to scan their student ID at the office. Weidler felt that the gate closures would not have much of an impact on school safety, saying that if a person had the motivation to get on campus, they could come before the gates lock.
The long wait times in the mornings and after lunch are caused in part by the rate at which students can be checked in. According to Tesch, the school has only one machine to scan student IDs.
The admin team has looked into other ways to speed up the check-in process. “The Dean of Students, (Shaheen) Mohammed, and I have been doing research to find other technology that would assist in checking students in and out,” Tesch said.
This technology is unlikely to arrive soon, though. For now, the admin team is hoping to get more staff at the gate and fewer late students.
Regardless of the varying views on the gate closure, BHS’s job is to educate as many students as possible as well as possible. To do so properly, the school will need to experiment to see which policies prove the most effective in getting people in class, on time.
“What is going to nudge students to be in class, if there’s just no consequences whatsoever for being tardy?” said Peter Seibel, a computer science teacher and instructional specialist at BHS. “But if there’s super draconian consequences, maybe that’s too tight and counterproductive. Everyone’s trying to find the balance.”