BHS security officers work radically different jobs during remote learning – Berkeley High Jacket
Eric Riley, who has been head of security at Berkeley High School (BHS) since 2007, has not worked on campus for nearly a year. While Riley’s story might not seem all that different from that of countless teachers and staff at Berkeley and many other districts, the nature of her work is.
BHS Security Officers, not to be confused with School Resource Officers, assist students throughout their day. Each of the twelve officers on campus has their own position, where they act as a cross between a security officer and an advisor. They are there to check in and are usually available to students, or at least they were during school in person.
Until mid-fall, security guards did not work on campus at all. They logged on to their online supervisor weekly and took various distance learning courses, but it was a far cry from their usual, inherently social jobs. Now many officers are back on campus, with the normal twelve at BHS down to six, and the rest split among Berkeley elementary schools.
Elementary schools generally do not have security guards, but there is now one on every campus, despite the fact that students are not present at most schools.
Riley is stationed at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, and while he’s happy to be back on campus, his job description doesn’t have much in common with what he used to do.
“Right now, I’m sitting in this hallway; I saw maybe two people all morning,” Riley said. “I don’t interact with anyone. I’m literally sitting here in this empty, hollow building. … It’s like I’m stuck. And that’s basically what I think all the other security guards do too.
For BHS officers, their experience isn’t much different, though they can at least return to positions they’re more accustomed to. According to Raul Garcia, who currently works at BHS, his main role is to prevent unwanted visitors from coming to the school, while protecting the campus from vandalism and other damage.
There aren’t many people on the BHS campus right now. For the most part, there are only a small number of teachers, caretakers, the occasional construction crew for Building A renovations, and more recently some sports teams.
Many security guards miss the school environment they used to know. “The interactions and energy that students have…especially when [they] have a plan or a vision of what [they] want to do after [they] leaving…sometimes I notice that and love to see that,” said Walter Mitchell, a security guard also working on the BHS campus.
As the BHS Cross Country Team has just returned with over 80 students and the number of students on campus is slowly increasing, there is a chance that BHS will return to what it was. However, security guards do not count on it.
Many are uninterested in pushing for a faster return, whether because they are resigned to the realities of distance learning or unsure of the safety of a return to school. . Despite this, all security officers who Jacket said they felt safe in their current roles on campus, especially since many have been or will be vaccinated in the near future.
In addition to security, the officers are doing well economically, as they have been fully paid throughout the pandemic. According to Mitchell, some security guards also have other jobs outside of BHS.
Despite the fact that the in-person work is generally going well, the significant shift in their work has not been fully reflected. Partly because of this, Riley wants to change the role of security guards while students stay in school online. Riley said he even made the suggestion to the Berkeley Classified Staff Union before they decided exactly how security guards should return to school.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I think we’d need a lot more of us reaching out to kids who aren’t on Zoom, checking in with the kids and following up with the kids and stuff like that. You just have to see what their needs are, whether it’s the internet, computers and things like that,” Riley said. “Every day we have these kids coming to school who fall between the cracks, which go unnoticed, so I’m sure it’s like hundreds of others now that they’re not held accountable because there’s no one there to physically see them.”
Although that hasn’t materialized, Riley still has hopes of connecting more with students in the near future, and for now, he just wants the BHS community to remember the security guards and try to maintain a relationship with them in one way or another. .
“Security officers in general can get lost in the transition due to issues like this. People don’t think twice about it, like, ‘What happened to the security guards?’ “, Riley said. “It seems like we might have been a lost commodity.”