Berkeley middle school closed for 2 years because of wood rot

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

BERKELEY, Calif. – Longfellow Arts & Technology Middle School in Berkeley has survived two massive Bay Area earthquakes, economic upheaval and changing demographics. Its latest foe may finally deal a death blow.

“There’s been kind of an attempt to make up for years of infrastructure deficiencies. And finally, the remodels are happening,” said parent Diana Negrin, who has a 12-year-old daughter who attends Longfellow. “And we got this news last week, first week out of vacation, that the remodel at Longfellow is not going to be done.” 

Far from a remodel, Longfellow needs to be rebuilt.

Installation of new windows on June 7 revealed the presence of dry rot in the wood of the primary structural beams on the southside of the building.

Berkeley Unified School District officials posted a message on its website that reads in part, “The supports of this building are crumbling and have created an unsafe condition…The structural integrity of this building has been compromised… We are working quickly to understand the scope and larger implication of this damage.”

“My reaction was very shocked. I started texting all the parents that I know. And it was automatic, like oh my goodness,” said parent Sophina Jones.

Over 500 Longfellow students will be moved for the next two years while the problem is addressed.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety over that because we’d already been dealing with the pandemic. And then this remodeling project that wasn’t really necessarily happening with the pace that the parents and the community had hoped for,” said Negrin.

Longfellow’s students will come here to the Berkeley adult school for the next two years for their classes. It’s about a mile and a half away. Some parents say it should be a big deal. Others say that small distance could make a big difference.

“I have two schools that I have to do drop-offs for in the morning. One in south Berkeley and now we have to go all the way to north Berkeley,” said Jones.

Some parents and teachers are now concerned about the disruptions they’ll face in mid-August, at the start of the next school year.

The school district says wood rot is only on the southern face of the building. They’ll submit plans to the state architect for approval. The rebuilding could cost some students their entire two-year career at this school that received a failing grade.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station’s South Bay bureau. Follow him on Instagram, @jessegontv and on Facebook, @JesseKTVU

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.