With recent weeks marked by scorching temperatures and heat waves, concerns about children playing on hot asphalt in unshaded school playgrounds was one of many issues taken up at the Sept. 6 Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education meeting. While the board approved asphalt repairs at Beverly Vista Middle School (BVMS), Hawthorne Elementary, and an asphalt project at BVMS, the board directed staff to look into the possibility of adding green space to provide shade over blacktop areas.
“As most of you know, the south part of Beverly Vista is basically all blacktop or asphalt,” said a parent during public comment. “Except for that small part, which is the green field, there is very little or almost no natural shade in that area.”
With middle school sports starting up at BVMS and more foot traffic, Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said staff are already in talks with the PTA to address the shade issue. Board President Mary Wells also suggested forming a sustainability advisory group to incorporate more greenery and shady areas on district campuses. “I think that there is definitely reason to think about the lack of green space and shade at Beverly Vista Middle School, and other schools, but BVMS really seems to be hit very much so,” board member Amanda Stern said. “It would be a sad state of affairs for kids to just have to go to the auditorium for lunch, when they really should be moving around.”
In a 4-1 vote, the board also approved a three-year contract with William Karrat for the position of Executive Director of Construction Services. Vice President Noah Margo was the sole nay vote, adding, “there are unbelievable parallels between the new Construction Manager’s responsibilities and this person’s responsibilities, and that’s where I’m concerned that wires might get crossed and we may run into conflict.”
In the cabinet level position, Karrat is responsible for managing the implementation of the district’s facilities master plan and bond program. The Executive Director of Construction Services will track the progress of all construction projects and report directly to Raphael Guzman, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. The role involves coordination and collaboration with Bregy and his cabinet.
“I think that we looked at this structure to provide greater transparency and accountability, and to streamline the reporting structure so that there’s better communication, both within our district and outside of our district,” President Wells said. “I feel really confident that this is the piece that we need to provide that accountability.”
Board member Gabriel Halimi said the role gives administration, including Bregy and his team, “the ability to actually monitor, supervise and help direct the direction of our construction program, which was something that the cabinet did not have in the previous structure.”
Since the board approved the BHUSD Community Pledge on Aug. 23, five have found permanent homes, with one placed at each school site and one at the district office. The community pledge was also read last Friday by Beverly Hills High School co-Principal Kim Decatrel, before the first home football game of the season. “I think that that was an important way to be able to share with another school district how important we feel these words are in our own community,” Bregy added. “I think that there was a lot of value added to being able to start a football game with the pledge being read.”
“The idea is to ensure that we keep this message going, and it takes everyone to do that,” Bregy said. “So, we’re going to be really creative about how we do that throughout the school year and continue to get people to not only sign the pledge, but even more importantly, live the pledge and live up to the pledge.”