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BUSD takes step toward building affordable housing for teachers, staff

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The front entrance of the Berkeley Adult School where Curative runs a COVID 19 test facility using one of Gehl’s custom made kiosks to streamline the efficiency of testing. Nov. 23, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos

Cornelius Smith pulls into the parking lot at Oxford Elementary at 8 a.m. He leans the driver’s seat back to get some shut-eye, two hours before his shift starts.

By day, Smith works as a school safety officer at the high school. By night, he is an armed officer at the Federal Reserve in San Francisco. He sleeps when he can, crashing for a few hours in the evening at his cousin’s place in Emeryville or at his parent’s in Hercules, and in his car in the mornings. The drive home to Antioch takes up to an hour and a half, depending on traffic, and he makes it back only on the weekends.

Smith would love to live in Berkeley, but with the sky-high cost of housing, “it’s way too expensive.” Many teachers live paycheck to paycheck, and classified staff like Smith earn even less. School safety officers at Berkeley Unified make as little as $29,000 each year, and the median salary for district employees is $45,833.

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