Tag Archives: mission bay

Recap: First meeting of the 2015-16 school year!

Students aren’t actually in school yet but as far as the district is concerned, the year is under way. Administrators returned to work in late July, teachers report back this week, and the Board resumed its normal meeting schedule tonight after the annual July hiatus.

There were a couple of very interesting items on tonight’s agenda:

  • Willie Brown Middle School preview – 6 out of the 7 Board members have never opened a new school before (the last brand new school the district opened was Dianne Feinstein Elementary in 2005) , so the unveiling of the sparkling new Willie Brown Middle School this week is really exciting for us. The numbers are good: 215 students enrolled in the inaugural 6th grade class, with 33 on the waiting list. Our goal was to open Willie Brown as a fully-enrolled, diverse school, and it looks as if we’ll achieve that goal — the incoming class is 45% African American, 23% Latino and 32% all other races (Chinese, Caucasian, Filipino, Pacific Islander, etc), coming from 38 different SFUSD elementary schools and 15 different zip codes. Every student will receive their own personal Chromebook on the first day, and have an advisor who will work with them on their individualized learning plan throughout the school year. Principal Demetrius Hobson has hired a new staff that has been working together for several weeks now to build the new program. After the humiliation and defeat that was the old Willie Brown MS (someday I’ll write up what it was like to visit that school in the last few months before it closed), I’m feeling confident we have set up the new school for success.
  • Schools in The Shipyard – You know The Shipyard, right? That’s the Hunters Point Shipyard to you old timers. Lennar Corp. and the City of San Francisco are hard at work in the area creating a “revitalized waterfront neighborhood . . . offering a mix of residences, retail, entertainment, a research and development campus, community space, and a business incubator.” Early on, the school district was offered space for a school within the development, which is good because the plan calls for almost 5,800 new residences. Tonight, we heard that the early vision (much more planning and analysis will be needed) is for two schools in The Shipyard: an “elementary professional learning school,” which would be a collaboration between SF State and SFUSD to provide training and professional development for emerging and experienced teachers and focus students at an early age on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and a STEM “excelerator” that would be “a state-of-the-art research and technology facility where high school and college students design and complete projects in collaboration with partners in the local business community.” The big question mark, aside from how much all of this would cost and where the money would come from (more about that in a minute), is the demographic analysis. San Francisco is changing rapidly, and will look very different 10 years from now than it does today. So are these school visions what we will truly need?  One thing that has always bothered me, and many others, is that a few years ago  our demographers said we didn’t need to rush to build a school in Mission Bay because so few of the market rate homes being built there would yield public school students. That prediction has held true, as Commissioner Wynns observed tonight, but I would argue that we didn’t build it, so they didn’t come.  To risk a long Mission Bay digression, we have two schools that are near(ish) to the Mission Bay area (reportedly swarming with young kids)–Bessie Carmichael K-8 and Daniel Webster K-5. Both are almost a mile away from the core of the neighborhood, straight up a steep set of hills and/or on the other side of a freeway. Not walkable.)  Anyway, I strongly made the point tonight that we need to dig deeper on our demographic analysis, and not simply decide that middle- and upper-middle class kids will never come our way, so we shouldn’t build for them. Demographic analysis to inform The Shipyard school discussion, as well as our larger ongoing discusssion on student assignment policy,  should be available sometime next month.  Finally, as far as funding the vision for The Shipyard schools, we’re beginning to plan for a bond issue in November 2016. Considering Willie Brown cost $54 million, this might be a big one. Stay tuned for more on that.

I’ve made a new school year resolution to blog more regularly — reading back over old posts from a few years ago makes me realize how little I’ve posted in recent months. Hold me accountable! In the meantime, wishing everyone a very happy and productive start to the school year. I’ll post Willie Brown pix after Friday’s opening ceremonies.

Mapping out the future in Mission Bay

Tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting focused on several facilities issues, the most interesting of which was a presentation on the possible options for a school site in the Mission Bay neighborhood. As part of a deal with the developer and UCSF (which has already built incredible biotechnology and science research facilities at the site), the school district has been given the option of building a school on a 1.5 2.2-acre corner lot. (A land use plan is here; the proposed school district lot is #14).

The research conducted by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency seems to bear out what anyone can witness with casual observation: there are a large number of very young children in the area. There also is not a school nearby: the closest schools are Bessie Carmichael in the South of Market neighborhood, and Daniel Webster Elementary in Potrero Hill (a school to watch!).

So the possibilities are very intriguing – we have a prime plot of land in the middle of a world-class research facility and a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood with a lot of young families; and a plot that is not far from some of the least-served (education-wise) neighborhoods in San Francisco. Originally, the idea from City Hall was a science and technology high school, but based on the preliminary analysis we’ve done as part of our student assignment redesign, it looks like what we really need is an elementary (K-5 or K-8) school. In addition, it would be smart to take advantage of the incredible intellectual capital at Mission Bay, and use it to establish a prestigious teacher-training institute that would grow sorely-needed math and science teachers right in our own backyard.

What will the site support? According to our Facilities Director, we could build a multistory building that would house a 500-student school and a teacher training institute without much trouble. But because a K-8 school would require more facilities (e.g., a gymnasium), his recommendation is that the site would more easily accommodate a K-5 school. On the other hand, in early conversations, UCSF has expressed deep interest in a middle school, with the idea that middle school students would really benefit from the exposure to the incredible science going on around the school.

Finally, what can we afford? We have existing bond authority to spend $30 million on a new school, which is good, but the Mission Bay site (because it is situated on landfill) is an expensive place to build. In addition, the Board has increasingly focused on the Bayview neighborhood as an area that needs better attention and resources. The Bayview and its surrounding neighborhoods are the areas where most of the public school children in San Francisco already live; schools in those neighborhoods do not currently have capacity for all the students who live there, and in addition they are generally our lowest-achieving schools. If, as it appears, the Board reverts to an assignment system that puts more weight on where children live in deciding school assignments, there are both practical and equity reasons to make sure that there are ample high-quality school choices for children in every neighborhood. So might it make more sense to construct a state-of-the-art school at one of our Bayview sites?

Unfortunately, my gut sense is that the Mission Bay AND the Bayview scenarios both make compelling sense, but there is not going to be bond money to do both, at least, not without going back to the voters. That is a risky proposition in today’s environment, and one that takes time and careful planning.

Anyway, deciding between the two options is not something the Board can do all at once, but it was important that we finally began the discussion at tonight’s meeting. Here’s how we left it:

  • The City is willing to commit funds to a study of the best uses of the site, but that study can’t move forward until the school district gives a clear indication of whether it’s interested in proceeding.
  • The new student assignment policy is a key “domino,” so getting this plan done on time (drop dead is March 2010) will be essential to moving the Mission Bay/Bayview discussion forward.
  • After the Board commits to a new student assignment policy, the Superintendent will formulate a recommendation on Mission Bay – the Board needs to either commit to moving forward or decide to put off the project for now.
  • The district has until 2027 to exercise its option to build a school at the site; after that, the land will revert to the developer.