EL CERRITO -- The City Council and the West Contra Costa school board shared some of their mutual successes along with a couple of differences in their annual joint meeting May 7.

On the positive side were a new summer internship program in city government, testimonials on the strides being made in tutoring El Cerrito students in writing and an update on rebuilding and replacing city schools.

These encouraging reports came along with requests from the council and community members to make school facilities more accessible to El Cerrito residents when they're not being used for education.

Longtime resident and community volunteer Al Miller urged representatives to make the El Cerrito High School campus, especially the athletic fields, available for public use after school and on weekends.

"How are we going to share these facilities?" Miller asked. "We have paid for them, and we have to have access to them."

In a similar vein, district bond oversight committee member and El Cerrito resident Robert Studdiford threw out several suggestions for community use of both the future new Portola Middle School campus and the existing campus.

Construction will begin on the new Portola this month on the site of the now-closed Castro Elementary School.

A committee consisting of two school board members and two council members is exploring what to do with the old Portola site at Moeser Lane and Navellier Street when it becomes available in about five years.


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El Cerrito Mayor Greg Lyman suggested that the city might lease the site from the district for an as-yet undetermined public use.

The council and school board heard a description from Oakland-based architect Marcus Hibser of plans for the new Portola, which will be under construction for the next two and a half years.

Hibser's firm is also designing a new Fairmont Elementary School. Fairmont students will occupy portable classrooms vacated by Portola students in 2015 so that their campus can be rebuilt at its present site.

The council and board also heard a detailed description of plans for a new football and soccer stadium at El Cerrito High School.

Internships

The internship program will match nine El Cerrito High 11th graders with eight-week positions with the city beginning this summer.

The aim is to put students in a professional work environment to enhance their job skills and give them a broader knowledge of how city government works, said El Cerrito Human Resources Director Sukari Beshears.

"I'm looking forward to seeing this program grow, providing meaningful learning outside the traditional classroom," said school board member Todd Groves.

The two boards also heard testimonials from volunteers, students and school administrators about the Writer Coach Connection program at El Cerrito High and Portola.

El Cerrito High Principal Daniel Luongo said program volunteers have worked with 387 students with measured success in improving their writing and preparing them for the high school exit exam and applying to college.

"We have had 108 volunteers, about the same as the number of teachers (at the school), so I can double the number of adults working with the youth," Luongo said.

Eight El Cerrito High and Portola students gave testimonials on the program, with several saying that sharing ideas with volunteers helped them find subjects that inspired them to write.

"The quantity and quality of students' writing is improving," said Portola Principal Matt Burnham. "It is teaching them about civic participation and community responsibility."

In a separate City Council meeting following the joint session, council members approved a Master Fee Schedule for 2013-14 that raises city user fees for building permits, business licenses and other services by an average of about 3 percent.